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A high rental market in Kamloops felt by all

Low vacancy rates and high rents force city and university to watch market

Kamloops residents at both ends of the economic spectrum face challenges in the rental market. Kim Torreggiani, a senior executive at Thompson Rivers University, has recently struggled to find a new home.

She spent the last month sifting through around 40 adverts before finding a place to stay, after being evicted from her five-year tenancy, due to her landlords moving in. When she found a new home, it cost her $600 more than her previous rental. Torreggiani’s new place is also farther from work, which means higher travel costs added to his higher rent and cost of living.

Meanwhile, a 67-year-old woman from Kamloops said K.T.W. she struggles to find affordable housing.

Shirley, who declined to give her last name, is retired. She lives on about $2,500 a month, including $2,200 to pay her rent at the Country View Motor Inn in Valleyview.

Shirley said she was not entitled to subsidized rent. She said it’s hard to buy groceries and medicine with the few hundred dollars she has left over each month.

Shirley said she was evicted in January from her home in Karamar Apartments, where she was paying $1,058 a month in rent. She said she was connected by ASK Wellness with her current two-bed hotel room, which includes a bathroom and a fridge. Shirley said she didn’t believe the hotel room was worth $2,200, but felt compelled to spend it with nowhere to go or risk ending up on the streets. She said K.T.W. she asked why the rent was so high and was told it was due to a lack of housing in town.

“For $2,200 I could have a mortgage,” Shirley said.

Kamloops rents show comparisons with Vancouver

Torreggiani described rental prices in Kamloops as high. Out of curiosity, as she was looking for her new home, she checked the current rental rates in Vancouver. The results, she says, surprised her.

She found examples of rental housing for the same amount of money as some in Kamloops. She said one of the main reasons she moved back from Vancouver to her hometown of Kamloops seven years ago was the affordability factor. Kamloops has always been a much more affordable place to live.

Torreggiani said she is now seeing basement apartments in Kamloops listed for $2,000 a month.

“I can’t understand how people think they can charge for this,” Torregiani said. “But they’re $2,000 in Vancouver too.”

K.T.W. searched for basement apartments for rent on Kijiji in Kamloops and Vancouver. The River City returned 28 results, compared to Vancouver’s 33 rental listings. Many opted for the same monthly rates in Kamloops and Vancouver.

Rentals in Vancouver ranged from $1,400 to $3,300 per month, while rentals in Kamloops ranged from $1,000 to $3,000.

“The fact that we are closing the gap worries me,” said Torregiani.

Torregiani said she would expect to pay more to rent in a big city because it has more amenities. She said she fears Kamloops will lose its competitive edge in attracting workers and students if it can no longer offer an affordable lifestyle.

In his role at TRU over the years, Torregiani has touted Kamloops’ affordability for recruiting employees.

“And that’s not the case anymore,” she said.

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s October 2021 rent survey showed Kamloops’ vacancy rate at 0.9. Seven years ago, in 2015, the vacancy rate was 5%.

Shirley said she tried looking for a cheaper place to rent in Kamloops, but noted that she was disabled, needed a wheelchair to get around, due to an injury to her leg, and that she couldn’t go down the stairs in the hotel to see the accessible places to see if they met her needs. She said she inquired about some rentals, but potential owners were vague about amenities.

Torregiani described the process as a tenant looking for a new home as a “full-time job.” She says it’s stressful. In her experience, she said the listing photos were sometimes misleading and the landlord’s lease requirements were unfair. In one case, the landlord asked to speak to references before allowing him to view the unit.

Torregiani said demand for rentals in Kamloops is high. In one instance, she was one of 80 people selected to view a unit and had been viewed 800 times online.

Torregiani said she thinks she would be the perfect tenant because she doesn’t smoke and doesn’t have pets. She said she felt for other people trying to compete for rentals with various caveats.

Torregiani lived in Vancouver for 25 years before moving back to Kamloops seven years ago and has been renting ever since. When she returned home, she expected to save about a third or half of the rent paid in Vancouver.

City and TRU have an eye on housing issues

The city’s social, housing and community development manager, Carmin Mazzotta, said K.T.W. CMHC’s most recent vacancies figures are extremely concerning.

He said a healthy threshold is between three and five percent. Mazzotta said the situation is compounded by recent reports of current and projected housing supply gaps across the country and a crisis in housing affordability.

As of the 2016 census, 47% of tenant households in Kamloops lived in unaffordable housing. The 2021 census data has not yet been released. However, Mazzotta said he expects that number to have increased over the past five years.

Regarding the city’s response to housing issues, Mazzotta said the city continues to waive development fees on nonprofit rental housing or provide funds from an affordable housing reserve to support affordable units in new developments, parking reductions for affordable housing and social housing. He said the city also continues to work with BC Housing through a memorandum of understanding to support the development of shelters, supportive housing and affordable rental housing.

Thompson Rivers University, meanwhile, is actively trying to increase its supply of student housing in Kamloops. Students have recently struggled to find accommodation in the city, due to limited availability.

The university added 114 temporary modular housing units last winter and has pledged to maintain them until the end of April 2023. The council also recently approved a development permit for a student accommodation complex of 80 units on Summit Drive.

Development in this area could include up to three student accommodation buildings. TRU spokeswoman Michelle Nordstrom said K.T.W. by email, on-campus housing is in high demand for the 2022-2023 academic year, and TRU encourages students to apply or join waitlists, if they have not already obtained housing.

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