On average, Canadians are seeing an upward trend with respect to rent prices, and it’s a trend that playing out in a big way in Manitoba.
Nationally, the average cost of rent was at its highest point last month when compared to the last three years – sitting at $2,042. The data comes from the rental market report compiled by Rentals.ca using the costs of currently vacant rental units.
While bigger and larger cities like Toronto, Vancouver and Burnaby, B.C., have the highest average cost for rent in the country, cities like Winnipeg are seeing a similar uptick.
Last month, the city witnessed a 12.2 per cent increase in its average rent price compared to the previous year. A studio apartment costs approx. $1,013, while a three-bedroom can go for $2,184.
Paul Danison, content director with Rentals.ca, said part of the reason for higher costs is dwindling supply as demand for housing increases. While Winnipeg can be an affordable place to live as a rule, he said, limited supply hinders the ability of many to find good, affordable housing.
“The provincial, federal and even municipal governments need to get together and figure this out,” said Danison. “(They) really need to sit down at a table and think through some creative solutions. There is a housing crisis, and it is an affordability crisis. It’s not a simple, ‘one little thing is going to fix.’”
Another solution, he said, is to turn empty commercial buildings into residential properties. With the vacancy rates or commercial zones at 17 per cent, according to Danison, turning such buildings into living spaces could significantly bolster supply.
“There’s a lot of advantages to that, and it is happening in some places. Calgary is leading Canada in converting office space into residential (spaces),” said Danison.
Concerns about higher rent costs are felt most by low-income families and renters, according to Josh Brandon with the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg. He noted that a high rent could exacerbate the pressure already felt by those hit hardest by inflation.
To Brandon, the whole issue suggests that government must step in to assist those that need it the most. Housing, he said, is becoming more and more unaffordable with the cost of living going up. He and his team and the planning council are involved in connecting individuals to appropriate housing agencies.
“When people struggle to afford housing, then that puts pressure on their finances. It makes everything in their life that much more difficult,” said Brandon. “That’s why we need to provide an affordable foundation of housing for every family. And that makes dealing with other life pressures that much easier. It makes job search easier for households who are struggling with addiction or with mental health or other personal crises.”
Brandon said a housing-first solution is one way to address homelessness. He says not dealing with the housing issues right away leads to social pressures becoming a lot more difficult.
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