While the rental market in Chilliwack has long been difficult — a crisis even — things are improving, if only slightly.
With an overall vacancy rate of just 1.5 per cent, Chilliwack has seen the second highest increase in available rental units year over year, in relative terms, according to a Canada Housing and Mortgage Corporation (CMHC) report released Tuesday.
Across B.C., the number of purpose-built rental units increased one per cent year-over-year, but in Chilliwack it went up 3.2 per cent. Only Kelowna saw a larger rate of increase at 6.3 per cent.
That said, the rental demand locally mirrors the picture across the Lower Mainland, and even the entire province: dismal.
“Demand for rental housing in B.C. has increased due to consistent employment growth and high levels of migration throughout 2016 and 2017,” according to Christina Butchart, B.C. regional economist for CMHC.
Population growth among millenials and seniors, along with migration, is contributing to the low vacancy rates, particularly in B.C.
And while the vacancy rate is at 1.5 per cent in the Chilliwack area, that compares to 1.4 per cent a year ago, and to the provincial average of 1.3 per cent.
The average vacancy rate across Canada in population centres with more than 10,000 people, decreased from 3.7 per cent in October 2016 to three per cent in October 2017.
To compare to neighbours to the west, the Abbotsford-Mission rate is at just 0.2 per cent down from 0.5 per cent a year ago.
Only Kelowna, also at 0.2 per cent, was as low as Abbotsford-Mission.
As for the Vancouver census metropolitan area, it’s at 0.7 per cent up from 0.5 per cent in 2016.
The average rent for all private apartments in Chilliwack was $820 in October 2017, that’s up from $758 in October 2016. The average rent for a bachelor apartment in Chilliwack was $580, one-bedroom $734, two-bedroom $942 and three-bedroom $912.
That compares to a provincewide average rent of $1,164 up from $1,099 a year ago.
A report earlier this year found that of the 30,430 households in Chilliwack, 7,655 or 25 per cent are renters. And of that number, 51 per cent reported spending more than 30 per cent of pre-tax income on rent and 22 per cent reported paying more than 50 per cent.
Advocates say the tighter rental markets, which is leading to higher rents, is contributing to the homelessness crisis locally and across the province.
In the last homeless count in Chilliwack 221 persons were counted up from just 73 counted in 2014.