Rent too high for 1/3

More than one-in-three tenants in the City of Penticton are paying more for rent than they can afford, according to an extensive housing needs study hitting councillors desks this week.

The 130-page report prepared by an outside consultant with a budget of $50,000 was commissioned by the city to act as a foundation for housing policy decisions moving forward.

The document paints a dire picture for the city’s rental market, with 35.7 per cent of renters spending more than 30 per cent of their before-tax income on shelter. 30 per cent is widely accepted as the upper limit a person can reasonably afford.

“There is unmet need for housing of retail and other service sector employees earning relatively low wages,” the report states “Often such employees cannot find housing that is considered affordable on their incomes if they can find housing at all.”

“Some employers will own housing units and rent them directly to employees. Other employers cannot or will not offer that option and suffer from personnel shortages,” the report continues.

The assessment also points to motels in the city, which flip to rental units in the winter months. That instability of the local rental market creates a difficult investment climate for the development of rental housing.

Penticton added just 125 private row and apartment rental units during 2011 - 2016 and 42 units during 2006 - 2016.

Because of that, the report states it is “not surprising” that the percentage of renters in unaffordable or unsuitable housing has climbed from 28 to 37 per cent between 2006 and 2011. The study uses data from the 2011 census, but may be updated with 2016 data once it is released later this year.

The report concludes that the community needs to build about 134 housing units every year just to keep up with growth, and makes a series of recommendations.

The city is being urged to consider regulations such as a density bonus for developers and rental loss prevention programs. An “Affordable Housing Reserve Fund” is also floated, which could provide grants for the development of affordable housing in the city.

At the higher end of the cost spectrum, it could partner with the province and provide land for affordable housing projects.


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