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Nelson rental market remains tight

Renters in Nelson can expect to pay an average of $776 per month for a one-bedroom apartment, according to the latest market survey by the Nelson Committee on Homelessness.
Rental prices in Nelson range from $550 to $1

Renters in Nelson can expect to pay an average of $776 per month for a one-bedroom apartment, according to the latest market survey by the Nelson Committee on Homelessness.

The organization conducts a snapshot each spring and fall of rental prices in the city.

Recently-hired coordinator Katie Tabor says the new figures are “quite similar” to last year’s.

“If somebody’s living in a place, there are rent controls around how much it can go up if they continue to live there,” she says. “But once a place opens up, the landlord has discretion over what to charge.”

The average price for a two-bedroom suite was $1,038 and for three bedrooms, $1,320, the survey found.

Conducted over a week in early September, it relied on ads in the Nelson Star and Pennywise, websites including craigslist, kijiji, and discovernelson, plus Coldwell Banker’s rental list, and calls to apartment buildings.

Suites, apartments, and homes within city limits were included in the survey.

In total, they found three bachelor suites, ranging from $550 to $650 per month; 16 single-bedroom apartments going for $625 to $1,000; 19 two-bedroom apartments between $700 to $1,300, and 18 three-bedroom apartments for $950 to $1,650. Some prices included utilities, but most didn’t.

The figures are comparable to last spring’s survey, which pegged one-bedroom rents at an average $850, and two and three bedrooms at $1,000 and $1,500, respectively.

A Canadian Mortgage and Housing rental market survey of the southern interior conducted a year ago found slightly lower figures for Nelson — an average of $542 for a bachelor suite, $610 for one bedroom, $719 for two bedrooms, and $1,007 for three bedrooms.

However, it only looked at apartments in buildings of three or more units, and included prices for currently rented units, which Tabor says may reflect units held by the same tenants for a long time.

“In comparison, the numbers in the September snapshot from our office reflect the cost of rentals actually available on the market, and the prices are much higher,” she says.

Even so, the CMHC report found rentals in Nelson were the highest in West Kootenay. In Castlegar, the average one-bedroom rented for $565 per month and in Greater Trail (not counting Rossland), $512.

Only Revelstoke had even higher rents, with one bedrooms going for $690 per month and two bedrooms $902.

Nelson’s vacancy rate was also the lowest by far at 1.8 per cent in 2010, compared to 19.5 per cent in Revelstoke, 11.8 per cent in Rossland, and 5.4 per cent in Cranbrook.

Assistance is $375

The survey results come as a man was evicted by police Sunday for squatting on an abandoned house foundation behind the recreation complex.

While Tabor couldn’t comment on the specifics of the case, she said it may be a reflection on the lack of affordable housing in the city.

“People on assistance are allocated $375 per month for rent,” she says. “They could be people with physical or developmental disabilities, single moms, or individuals living with mental health or substance use issues. There’s a large group of people that affects.”

Tabor says even with the subsidy, it’s “next to impossible” for those people to find affordable housing in Nelson.

However, she was heartened to hear police referred the displaced squatter to local community agencies.

“It’s really important that people are able to access services and able to make an informed choice about accessing them,” she says. “People dealing with poverty and homelessness need the right information in those situations.”

In particular, Tabor called Stepping Stones shelter a “hub” that plugs people into a community support network.

“It takes three things to end homelessness: an adequate income, affordable housing, and support services for those who need them,” she says.

She also described the groundbreaking on a 33-unit social housing complex on Anderson Street as “exciting news.”

Tabor started in the position four weeks ago, taking over from Celeste Le Duigou. Tabor has lived in the Kootenays for 11 years and previously worked with adults with developmental disabilities for Community Living BC.

October 10 to 16 is also Homelessness Action Week, which Tabor describes as a “chance for the community to engage around issues of poverty.”

The Nelson Committee on Homelessness has invited local youth to create posters on the issue, which will be displayed in downtown businesses.

Affordable housing?

Bachelor suites available in Nelson: 3

One bedroom apartments: 16

Two bedroom apartments: 19

Three bedroom apartments: 17

Average monthly rent for bachelor suite: $600

For a one-bedroom suite: $776

For a two-bedroom suite: $1,038

For a three-bedroom suite: $1,320

Cheapest rent: $550 for a bachelor suite

Highest rent: $1,650 for a three-bedroom suite

Source: Nelson Committee on Homelessness’s average rental prices snapshot, September 2011.