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Rents up 16% on Waterloo 3-bedroom housing

Toronto Star, April 29, 2002

WATERLOO - Landlords appear to be climbing onto the student housing bandwagon, causing a whopping 16 per cent rent increase, on average, among three-bedroom units in Waterloo Region.

The average rent for three-bedroom units in the region rose to $951 a month last year, up from $820 in 2000, says a report by Jill Dickinson, housing information officer, and Larry Kotseff, the region's commissioner of planning, housing and community services.

"According to Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp., most of these increases can be attributed to individual bedrooms in multi-bedroom houses, being rented to students, resulting in a higher-than-average rent for the total unit," says the report, to be presented to the region's community services committee today.

Average rent increases for apartments rose by 3.9 per cent last year, more than the provincial guideline of 2.9 per cent and the inflation rate of 2.5 per cent, the report says.

The 2001 hikes came on top of 2000 increases, when rents also went beyond the provincial guidelines and vacancy rate.

While the 0.9 per cent local vacancy rate - the second lowest in Ontario - has been somewhat alleviated by the addition in 2001 of 184 private rental units, with another 778 started, that doesn't mean the new units meet the increasing demand for housing, the report says.

"Households are finding it difficult to obtain affordable housing in this region . . . The supply of new rental units does not ensure affordability," Dickinson said.

For example, newly built two-bedroom units may rent for between $1,000 and $1,400 a month, way above the region's average rent of $722 for a two-bedroom.

In 2000, rents for bachelor apartments went up 11 per cent to $483 a month, but did not increase in 2001. One-bedroom apartments went up 5.8 per cent in 2000, and another 2.8 per cent last year, bringing the average rent to $615.

With more than 4,000 families in the region waiting for assisted housing, the options are bleak, the report indicates.

People on social assistance have a shelter allowance far below the average rents, and have little chance of buying, despite low mortgage rates which could make it cheaper to own a home than to rent.

"However, a down payment of at least $5,000 would still be required," Dickinson said in her report.

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