The Canadian Rental Housing Index is a comprehensive database that compiles rental housing statistics for cities, regions, and provinces across Canada. (Image: Thinkstock)

How rental rates stack up in Trail, Castlegar and Nelson

Rent eating up a big portion of income in Trail and across the province

Ever wonder how local rental rates stack up next to other cities in B.C., or across the country for that matter?

In Trail, one in five — or 22 per cent — of households spend half their paycheque on rent and utilities, which averages $742 per month.

“Absolutely I would say at least that many, if you look at seniors on a fixed income, and individuals on disability or assistance,” says Sheila Adcock from Career Development Services. “The maximum they get is about $1,100 a month, so if you are looking at the average rent and utilities being $742, that’s well over half.”

Adcock has helped hundreds of people secure suitable housing in Greater Trail through the Getting to Home program. Last year alone, her team provided 107 interventions, 19 involving children, for locals needing to find a safe place to rent.

She pointed out that the Ministry of Social Development gives a person on assistance $375 monthly to pay for both rent and basic utilities like heat.

“So it’s unrealistic because there is no place in Trail to rent for $375 a month,” Adcock added. “So people on a fixed income and living below the poverty line, are paying at least half their income for shelter, absolutely.”

Trail’s percentage is in line with the provincial average which shows 21 per cent on British Columbians spend 50 per cent of their income on rent – though average B.C. rent is listed as $1,148.

Those statistics, based on the 2016 census, were released by the Canadian Rental Housing Index on Tuesday.

The index is a comprehensive database that compiles rental housing statistics for cities, regions, and provinces across Canada. Anyone can access the website to see how much rent Canadians are paying in different parts of the country, compare affordability measures and find out where residents are overcrowded and overspending on housing.

Another “benchmark” in the Trail community is reflective across the province.

The Index has historically defined “affordable” rent as 30 per cent or less of the household’s annual income.

With B.C.’s average annual income sitting at $58,698 — notably Trail’s is much lower at $41,889 — the Index shows 43 per cent of the province’s 590,000 renters are spending the benchmark, or 30 per cent, of their income on rent and utilities per year.

In Trail that number sits at 42 per cent and in the Kootenay Boundary as a whole, 40 per cent, according to the index.

But who do these numbers refer to, at least in the Trail area?

“All of my children that are renting and working in the community are paying well over 30 per cent,” Adcock shared.

“Like in Glenmerry and East Trail, for example, my kids are all paying anywhere from $700 to $1,200 per month — and they are not working at Teck I might add.”

Adcock says those households spending above the benchmark are not the high income or low income earners per se — they fall somewhere in between.

“I would say the middle earners are paying at least 40 per cent,” she added. “That jives with housing in Trail for sure.”

Comparably, Nelson numbers show that rent and utilities are over $200 more than Trail’s, or $965 per month.

Similar to Trail — one in five — or 22 per cent — spend over 50 per cent of income on rent.

However, the city’s “benchmark” sector is higher than in Trail or British Columbia for that matter, as the index shows 47 per cent are spending over 30 per cent of their income on rent and utilities.

Castlegar statistics show rental and utility costs sitting in the middle, at $881. Like Trail and Nelson — one in five spend half their pay cheque on rent and utilities. But slightly fewer households — 41 per cent — are spending over 30 per cent of their annual income on rent and utilities.

Another stat, “households living in overcrowded conditions” sits at five per cent in Trail, Kootenay Boundary, and Nelson compared with 10 per cent across British Columbia. In Castlegar, that figure is at seven per cent.

But what constitutes an overcrowded household?

The Index uses what is called the National Occupancy Standard, which was developed by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. The standard determines the number of bedrooms a household requires given its size and composition. Statistics Canada provided data of how many units in each community had a one, two or three-bedroom shortfall.

However, the index does note what might be considered unsuitable housing by the National Occupancy Standard, may not be considered overcrowding to the people who live there. This is particularly true for households that choose to live intergenerationally.

Statistics for smaller municipalities such as Rossland, Montrose and Fruitvale, were not included in the Index.

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