Nearly 60% of Vancouver's renters on the hunt for a home for 2 months or more

Jul 30 2019, 6:23 pm

There is no doubt that many prospective renters in Vancouver are facing an uphill battle in finding a home that suits their needs, and the results of a recent City of Vancouver survey provide a glimpse of the extent of the difficulties.

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Survey results embedded in CitySpaces Consulting’s report to the municipal government analyze the rental housing market’s challenges, with the report’s survey indicating 39% of respondents said it was “difficult” to rent a home and another 25% stating it was “very difficult.”

When asked how long they were looking before they found their current rental home, 26% said two months, 16% at three months, and another 16% at four months or more.

Nearly half (47%) said they have one bedroom in their rental home, while 31% indicated they live in a studio, 20% are in a unit with two bedrooms, and only 1% are in a unit with three or more bedrooms.

For the five most important reasons respondents chose their current rental home, respondents noted budget fit, neighbourhood, close proximity to public transit, pet friendliness, and close proximity to their job.

In contrast, the top five reasons for their decision to move were the desire for additional living space, rent increases, building management issues, job change or relocation, and the desire to change neighbourhoods. Roughly half (46%) said they did not feel connected to their community or neighbourhood where their rental home is located.

“Numerous responses cited the small size of units and expensive rents as trade-offs for convenient locations. People also frequently stated that the small size of units and increased rent was worth it to live in a new building or to live without roommates,” reads the report.

“A number of respondents indicated that they had no choice to live in their previous home, and that their new rental housing was their only option. Many respondents indicated that they were willing to pay more in rent to live in a pet-friendly building.”

Half (49%) of respondents noted they had no plans to move within one year, while nearly one-in-three respondents (35%) said they intend to move in the near future.

With a super low rental vacancy of less than 1%, it is not surprising that many renters are unwilling to look for a new and improved rental home given the challenges of doing so.

“I would spend the evening looking for a place to rent online, and when I called each place the next morning, the apartment was already taken. It got to the extent that I was panicking and desperate. Finding an apartment in Vancouver is a full-time job,” said one respondent.

Another respondent said: “I was looking to move out of my building of 15 years when I saw the sign for the new rental building. I put my name on the waitlist months before the building was completed. I received an email that they were showing the apartments and I got an appointment the same day. I signed my lease the next day. I felt like I had won the lottery.”

Close to five-in-10 respondents (46%) moved into their current rental home in 2018.

The median rent among the respondents was $1,625 per month when they first moved in, with 29% paying rents in the range of $1,000 to $1,499, 35% at $1,500 to $1,999, 18% at $2,000 to $2,499, and 4% at $2,500 or more.

When it comes to the proportion of their pre-tax gross household income going towards covering rent, 29% of respondents said 20% to 30% of their income, 25% said 30% to 40%, 18% said 40% to 50%, and 16% said 50% or higher. Before taxes, 34% of respondents indicated they had a total household income of $80,000 to under $150,000, 30% between $50,000 and under $80,000, and 13% between $30,000 and under $50,000.

The vast majority of respondents are younger generations, with 26% between the ages of 35 and 44, 44% between 25 and 34, and 7% between 18 and 24. As well, 43% described their household as a couple without children, and another 44% indicated they are single.

Prior to moving to their current rental property, 65% said they were already renters, while 22% said they previously owned and 12% lived with relatives. Moreover, 57% were already residents of Vancouver, followed by 15% were residents of BC outside of Vancouver, 13% were from outside BC, and 14% from outside Canada.

Over half (52%) do not own a car, although 20% also indicated the use of car share meets their private vehicle needs. The other half (48%) owns a car, with 32% parking within the rental building and 16% parking on the street.

These findings are based on the municipal government’s survey of households living in 30 recently-built rental housing projects created through incentive programs.

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