43 local households in need of affordable rental housing

By Kirk Winter

Hope Lee, manager of housing for Kawartha Lakes and Haliburton, says 43 households are looking for full-time, affordable rental housing in Kawartha Lakes and Haliburton.

The bulk of the need is in Lindsay and Fenelon Falls.

Finding adequate and affordable housing in Kawartha Lakes and Haliburton has long been a challenge, Lee shared, and “Lindsay’s low vacancy rate has created a huge issue finding housing.”

Lee adds that the pandemic has complicated the problem considerably. Lindsay’s only homeless shelter, A Place Called Home, is not constructed to allow social distancing and the enforcement of pandemic protocols.

Lee said, “What do you do when you are told to stay at home if you don’t have a home at all?”

All 43 of these households have been moved to hotels in Kawartha Lakes as a temporary solution until permanent housing can be found.

The city is attempting to make it more attractive to help house these local people by offering landlords a package that includes a $500 grant to get the apartment ready for the new tenants, money for last month’s rent, and money for the first three months the household will be living in their new surroundings.

Lee said that in those first three months the city will be working with the federal government to connect the household with the Canada Housing Benefit to access funds that will either pay part or all of the rent moving forward.

Lee is pleased that four landlords have already stepped up to offer properties, and one household that had been living at the shelter for a number of months has moved into their new apartment. Lee said “the family is very happy to get a place of their own.”

Lee shared that the bulk of the people currently living in hotels are looking for one bedroom apartments, and that is where the need lies locally. Unfortunately she says these specific kinds of units are in very short supply.

The shortage of rental units in Kawartha Lakes and Haliburton is mirroring a trend right across Ontario. According to a recent report commissioned by the Federation of Rental-housing Providers of Ontario (FRPO), the umbrella group representing 2,200 landlords and building managers housing 350,000 households across Ontario, by 2029 Ontario could be short 100,000 units.

An updated 2019 study for the group done by the market research firm Urbanation shows that Ontario needs to build 7,000 to 10,000 new rental units a year for the next decade. Urbanation reports that even though rental housing development is up, “it is far outstripped by the demand driven by a booming population, high employment and declining home ownership.”

Along with the new units coming on line the FRPO is asking for the provincial government to allow higher annual rent increases so landlords can maintain aging buildings, the vast majority built before 1980.

Tony Irwin, CEO of the landlords’ umbrella group suggests, “Rather than the province’s 1.8 per cent allowable rent increase, landlords should be able to raise rents by the rate of inflation, plus 2 per cent.”

According to Urbanation most Ontario cities, including Kawartha Lakes, are experiencing 16 year-low vacancy rates. The Greater Toronto Area currently has a 1 per cent vacancy rate, and that number is not untypical across Ontario.

Irwin continues, “In a tight market tenants are staying in their apartments longer.  This means landlords lose their only opportunity to raise rents to market levels when someone moves out. Some landlords see 25 to 30 per cent turnovers annually are now reporting rates closer to 10 per cent.”

Irwin concludes, “This, coupled with rising pressure from organized groups fighting above-legal rent increases, has made the climate for operating rental housing very challenging. That climate informs investment decisions.”

Landlords with available rental space in Kawartha Lakes or Haliburton are asked to contact Hope Lee at 705 324-9870.

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