Third-year UBC dietetics student Jenneke van Hemert has been looking for a room for September since the beginning of July, but Vancouver’s perennially crowded rental market has not been kind to her.
With a full-time summer job and a fiancé in Victoria, she says she has made 25 serious attempts to line up viewings with landlords and seen two places, but landed none.
“There is availability, but it’s been really tough,” she told Metro Thursday via phone from Victoria. “There are a couple that I’ve seriously gone after and have been declined basically before I got there because they’re already taken.”
Vancouver’s notoriously low vacancy rates have been dropping ever lower over the past decade, from 2 per cent in 2003 to 0.7 per cent in 2011, according to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC).
A healthy vacancy rate is no lower than two per cent, and preferably closer to three, according to the City of Vancouver.
The CMHC does not keep month-to-month stats on vacancy rates, but Vancouver housing expert and developer Michael Geller said in his experience this is the worst time of year to be hunting.
“I think September is a terrible time,” he said. “I remember when my own daughter came back (to school) and tried to find housing in September and was the 14th person in a lineup in the lobby of a building.”
Affordable housing advocate Christine Ackermann, president of the West End Residents Association, advised stressed-out students who can to get offline and hit the streets.
“In Vancouver the best way to find an apartment or a house to rent is to walk around the neighbourhood where you want to live, and don’t rely so much on Craigslist,” she said. “I know a lot of people go to Craigslist, but in my experience whenever you walk around you see the signs on people’s doors or on their lawns, and you end up with a better result.”
Student housing experts advise out-of-town students who don’t have that option to do their homework and enlist the help of friends to avoid getting scammed.
van Hemert also has a Plan B.
“I’ve developed a safety net,” she said. “I actually can stay with a friend in September for the first three weeks that I’m there. It won’t get any easier, but at least I’ll be in Vancouver.”