Northern Ontario Market Analyst Warren Philp.
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THUNDER BAY – A low vacancy rate is forcing some students to take drastic measures in finding an affordable place to live in the city.
Marie-Michelle Sullivan is one of those students. The Peterborough, Ont., native and soon-to-be Lakehead University student is offering her services as a full-time live in nanny just so she can live affordably during the school year. To make the deal even sweeter, Sullivan is offering to pay an additional $100, effectively making her a live-in nanny working for a wage that is less than free.
“I can only go to school part-time because I can’t afford to go full-time so the plan is to go full-time next year if I have the money, which is why I am hoping for room and board,” Sullivan said during a phone interview from Peterborough with tbnewswatch.com.
“There’s not too many people that can afford to go to school and have a place to live while having a job or two on top. My plan is if I don’t hear anything back from this ad then I’m going to drive up and find a place the day I get there. I’ll have to pay for it and I will have to get a student loan or OSAP and probably a job or two.”
If no one bites on the nanny offer, which she posted on Kijiji, than couch surfing could be Plan B.
Sullivan isn’t alone. A quick search of the classified site shows that many soon-to-be local university or college students are struggling to find affordable living in the city. As the first day of school nears, more advertisements in all-caps are appearing.
“LU STUDENT NEEDING to RENT ROOM ASAP,” reads one of the ads
Another one reads, “Looking for 3 bdr rental unit ASAP.”
There are 101 rental spaces available on the classified site, but more than 240 people are listed as looking for places to rent.
Rag Saigkia, 25, from Toronto is one of those 240 and isn’t optimistic he’ll find a place by the beginning of the school year. He said there appears to be a rental crisis in Thunder Bay for students trying to find a place to live.
“I have been searching for a place for a month,” Saigkia said. “I don’t have a room so I am really tense on where I am going to be staying. I’m really tense. I have some friends coming from India and they said they may have some room for me if they come. It’s 50/50. I at least have a backup plan.”
Thunder Bay’s vacancy rate dropped to 1.7 per cent in 2011 from 2.2 per cent in 2010. It’s expected to drop even more this year to 1.5 per cent because of the employment growth and more people moving into the city.
Northern Ontario Market Analyst Warren Philp hesitates to call the situation a crisis because he said the vacancy rate has been much lower before.
Several factors, including the May flood that forced thousands from their homes, impacted the lower vacancy rate.
Adding to the problem is that there hasn’t been any movement on new development in the city. In order to give people a place to stay, Philp said condo owners have been renting out their space.
“The market is quite tight,” Philp said. “As October approaches we don’t expect any changes in that trend to see fewer available vacant units in the market. We’re becoming more of a mining centre. Mining has the tradition of being a transient industry and with that transient nature people in the industry are sometimes renters. That’s putting additional pressure on Thunder Bay rental housing.”
Rental prices have also gone up in the city. On average, the price for a one-bedroom apartment in 2011 could cost someone around $676 on the north side compared to $609 in the south side. The price for a three-bedroom apartment in the northward priced out to $1,013 compared to $849 in the southward.
Despite rent controls in the city, Philp said the property owners are allowed to boost the price above normal increases legally. Landlords can apply to the Landlord and Tenant Board for an increase above the guideline, if their costs for the municipal taxes or utilities have increased by more than the guideline plus 50 per cent.
“On average we’re seeing rents escalate and in some cases higher than what you expect since there is rent controls and allowable annual rate of increase,” he said.
In order to lessen the demand, Philp said the only way to do that is for the city to create more spaces for people to rent.
Emma Brightwell, president of Lakehead University Student Union, said so far she hasn’t heard any complaints about housing as most students haven’t arrived yet. She said she would know more next week when students begin to arrive.
“This weekend will be the big move for students,” Brightwell said. “I’m sure after this weekend though we will be hearing quite a bit more.”
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