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Rentals tight across region

Kitchener-Waterloo Record - November 27, 2001
by Carol Goodwin


Waterloo Region's rental vacancy rate has improved slightly this year, but it's still awfully tough to find Waterloo apartments.

Of the 25,800 rental units across the region, only about 233 are available for rent, according to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp.'s annual rental market report released yesterday.

The report notes that the region's vacancy rate has crept up slightly to 0.9 per cent, compared to 0.7 per cent last year. The region also has the sixth lowest vacancy rate out of 26 major centres in Canada. Last year it had the third lowest.

The statistics are based on a housing corporation survey conducted during two weeks in October, explained Brent Weimer, market analyst for the local office of the Crown corporation.

For the purposes of the survey, only buildings with at least three units for rent are included, Weimer said. The survey covered the Kitchener Metropolitan Census Area, which incorporates most of the region.

The Kitchener apartments rental vacancy rate has shrunk slightly from 0.7 per cent last year, to 0.6 per cent this year.

Waterloo's has gone up a bit from 0.3 per cent last year to 0.8 per cent this year.

Only Cambridge broke through the one per cent ceiling, with a vacancy rate this year of 1.8 per cent compared to one per cent last year.

The overall supply of apartments in the region increased by 84 to 25,804, the report says.

The survey also found that out of 3,333 privately rented townhouses, known as row housing, the vacancy rate this year is 1.4 per cent, up from 1.1 per cent last year.

Rents continue to rise, with the biggest increase shown among three-bedroom apartments which went up a whopping 16 per cent to an average of $951 a month compared to $820 on average last year.

Two-bedroom apartment rents went up 3.6 per cent to an average of $722 a month, and one-bedroom apartments went up to $615 from $598.

According to the report, average rents of two-bedroom townhouses went up to $735 this year from $726 last year. Three-bedroom townhouses, on average, went up to $820 from $789.

While the report records only average rents, calls to some of the region's bigger apartment buildings show it costs a lot to rent a unit.

"People who are moving in are now moving out" because of the high rents, said Mary Pappert, who heads the tenants' association at a 35-year-old Margaret Avenue building in Kitchener.

Although "sitting" tenants are only supposed to be charged legally allowed increases, new tenants are paying much more. For example, a one-bedroom apartment for a new tenant is $925. Sitting tenants pay $631 -- above the report's average of $615.

Pappert said two young women who rented an apartment together last May left in October.

"The one young woman told me they couldn't afford the rent," Pappert said.

It seems the modest Hallman apartments are among the only larger buildings that fit the average. There are 3,000 in the region with only 10 available, owner Lyle Hallman said. Rents range from $600 for a one-bedroom to $750 for a two-bedroom -- still higher than the average $722 in the report.

At the two large Gresham apartment buildings across from Fairview Park mall in Kitchener, there's one apartment available out of more than 500, said assistant manager Carole Amaya. The two-bedrooms rent for $855, the three-bedrooms for $1,010. The few one-bedrooms are $780. tilities are included but covered parking is extra, from $20 a month at Gresham to $33 a month at Margaret Avenue.

And at Wilson Place near Fairway Road and Wilson Avenue in Kitchener, where one of two highrises was recently completed, occupancy is already at 80 per cent, said building manager Pat McGilloway.

The apartments -- there'll be 550 once the second building by Drewlo Holdings is complete -- range in size. One-bedrooms range from $850 to $940; two-bedrooms from $1,035 to $1,190 and three bedrooms from $1,330 to $1,390. The rents include utilities and one parking spot, McGilloway said. And judging from the calls she's getting, the recently completed building will likely be full by February, she said.

The region's subsidized housing units, numbering almost 8,000, are not included in the rent survey, Weimer said.

Meanwhile, Guelph apartments vacancy rate edged up to one per cent, compared to 0.7 per cent in 2000, the report said. Guelph has 6,609 units for rent, with two-bedroom units going up 3.8 per cent to $764 and three-bedroom units going up 11.3 per cent to $917, on average. Guelph and area's 1,082 private townhouses recorded a vacancy rate of 0.7 per cent, or eight vacancies.


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