Campbell River has the lowest rental vacancy rate on Vancouver Island. Photo by Marc Kitteringham - Campbell River Mirror

Average Vernon renters aren’t earning enough to own

Housing needs assessment looks at gaps, city weighs rental restrictions

The need for affordable housing continues to build in the community.

Data from a Regional District of North Okanagan housing needs assessment shows the median household renter income ($32,976) is lower than the necessary median income ($38,300) to buy an apartment (based on payment to income ratio of 30 per cent). The necessary median household income for semi-detached ($78,600); and single-family homes ($156,800) is unattainable for renters.

When comparing household renter income to rental stock, the report also shows there is a shortage of more than 1,000 apartments in the less-than $500 month rental range.

“This is a very significant problem in Vernon to address,” Coun. Kelly Fehr said, during council’s review of the report Dec. 14.

Mayor Victor Cumming says the city does have some help on the way.

”We have some things coming on stream in 2021 to meet some of those needs,” Cumming said.

READ MORE: Affordable housing moves to Vernon, Okanagan Indian Band

One area the inventory does not include is illegal suites. There are approximately 250 licensed suites, and about 700 illegal suites, according to staff.

“For the most part they are getting $1,200 for a one-bedroom suite and it’s not even a legal suite,” Coun. Kari Gares said.

One major reason a lot of suites are legal is the city has a restriction that they must be owner-occupied.

Gares (who is a mortgage broker) attempted to have that restriction removed, but it was defeated by council.

“We have no legal ground to stand on for that,” she said.

There are many issues with illegal suites, but Coun. Scott Anderson says added restrictions will only hurt homeowners.

“It may be the difference between someone keeping a house to not keeping a house because they need that suite in order to pay for their mortgage,” he said.

It’s a complicated issue, as Coun. Akbal Mund pointed out.

“I’ve had many realtors ask me why investors cant buy homes here because they have to live in them. But then you have neighbours wondering how a property is managed with no homeowner there.”

READ MORE: Vernon soon to be home to more affordable housing


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