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Task team confirms County’s long-term rental vacancy lower than reported

The municipality’s Affordable Housing Task Team has confirmed beliefs the County’s long-term rental vacancy rate is not as healthy as the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) has reports.

Its study, showing the rental vacancy rate at .81 per cent, is far below the 4.8 per cent reported by the CMHC. As well, the team learned access to funding applications was being inhibited by CMHC’s percentage.

A report to be received at council’s Committee of the Whole meeting Thursday afternoon states the rate also rendered Prince Edward County ineligible for at lest one provincial funding program (Development Charge Rebate Program) aimed at promoting affordable housing development. The program ws only offered to communities with a rental vacancy rate of three per cent or less.

Knowing at least two not-for-profit entities intend to seek funding through CMHC and elsewhere, the Task Team conducted its survey, based on the same methodology as CMCH.

An initial list of 103 eligible rental properties was found by referencing property codes pertaining to multi-residential structures with three-plus units, as per the CMHC method. From mid-June into July, staff was able to contact all but 16 of the initial 103 properties.

Based on CMHC’s criteria, 35 properties were ineligible and of the remaining, staff obtained data representing 738 rentable units.

One property omitted was the Wellings of Picton apartment development. While the Task Team could not confirm the Wellings was par of the CMHC study in 2017, when its unit count (88) and vacancies (26) are included, the rental vacancy rate for the County balloons to 3.87 per cent.

While not officially classified as a retirement residence, the team concluded the property should be omitted as its one-bedroom rental rates range from $2,495 to $3,295 per month and include extensive services for seniors. The team determined it should not be considered alongside other accommodation-only rental properties with the context of a rental vacancy study, and not as a determining factor when considering application for affordable housing funding.

Throughout the survery feedback from landlords, the team learned reasons why property uses or unit mixes had changed.

Some trends include increasing cost of water. The water rate goes up based on the number of units and diameter of lines and can’t easily be recouped due to rent controls; there are no incentives for conservation for tenants and some have considered selling their property or coverting to another use as a result.

Main of the owners of multi-residential buildings to not keep waiting lists; others have lists up to 40 people and are called multiple times a week to see if they have availability. One owner noted tenants are taking apartments “as is” because “they are desperte”.

As far as affordable housing, trends showed the price of water is a problem for keeping rents low. Renters are finding it difficult to afford market rents and are taking in additional renters or a roommate. There are frequent inquiries for low income housing – for someone on ODSP, $900 is considered a lot of money for rent.

The information is being compiled into a formal research study to be sent to CMHC and made available for developers in support of affordable housing development in the County.

The County’s Community Development department will make use of the information collected for future rental property surveys and other research in support of the municipality’s housing and economic development efforts.

The Affordable Housing Task Team members included James Hepburn, CAO; Neil Carbone, Director of Community Development and Strategic Initiatives; Amanda Carter, Director of Finance, Paul Walsh, Manager of Planning; Ann Wood, Budget and Accounting Supervisor; Annett Keogh, Housing Manager with Prince Edward Lennox Addington Social Services. The Rental Vacancy Working Group participants included Treat Hull, councillor, Christine Winiarz-Searle, chartered professional accountant; Gary Mooney, Fellow, Canadian Institute of Actuaries and Mike Harper, market research consultant.

Filed Under: Local News

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