Photo by Elvert Barnes/Flickr

Photo by Elvert Barnes/Flickr

Report finds Fernie’s long-term vacancy rate is relatively stable

Despite an increasing number of short term rentals, Fernie’s long-term rental vacancy rate is a relatively stable 3.4 per cent, says a new report by CitySpaces Consulting.

“This is indicative of a relatively healthy market, where there is competition among landlords to attract renters,” said the report.

CitySpaces noted that metropolitan areas of Vancouver and Victoria have rates well below one per cent.

However, rental rates have continued to increase for all unit sizes since the city’s last affordable housing strategy was published in 2007, said representatives from CitySpaces Consulting in a presentation to council on June 12.

Without spending more than 30 per cent of a median income, couples of all ages would be able to rent one, two and three bedroom units, while single people would only be able to rent a one bedroom apartment, found the report.

Citing data from the Canadian Mortgage Housing Corporation (CMHC), which reports on average rents and vacancy rates for communities across the country, the report found there were a total of 209 rental units in Fernie in 2016 distributed in 20 structures.

Two-bedroom units made up the majority of rental units (68 per cent). One bedroom and three bedroom units made up the remainder of Fernie’s rental market (24 per cent and 8 per cent, respectively).

Between 2013 and 2016, the total number of rental units available in the City of Fernie decreased from 220 to 209, a net loss of 11 units. Six of these units were in the form of two-bedroom suites. The overall decrease may be attributed to a loss of two rental structures within the three-year period.

The report also found that short-term rentals, including Airbnb and VRBO, have become increasingly common in the community. Short-term rental rates were found from $36 per night for a private room or shared space, to upwards of $1,200 per week for a three-bedroom townhouse or detached home. The report said there were approximately 130 Airbnb rental listings in the Fernie area in January.

Regarding home ownership, the report found that single parent families earning the median income in Fernie have less ability to buy a home when compared to couples.

Single parents under the age of 64 were found to be completely priced-out of the housing market. Those aged 45 to 54 were upwards of $47,000 shy of being able to purchase an apartment priced at $241,000.

Housing sale prices have been relatively stable since 2009 although there was an uptick in 2016. The average sale prices in 2016 were $479,850 for a single detached home, $449,400 for a townhouse, and $241,000 for a condominium.

The city’s current affordable housing strategy was developed in 2007 and has become dated, said the city. A multi-stage process is underway to develop a new one.