By Korie Marshall
If a household spends 30 per cent or less of its before-tax income on rent and utilities, that is typically considered affordable. But according to a new Canada-wide rental housing index released last week, 43 per cent of renting households in the Regional District of Fraser Fort George are spending more than 30 per cent on housing and utilities, and 20 per cent of them are spending over half their income.
In 2014, the BC Non-Profit Housing Association partnered with VanCity Credit Union to develop a rental housing index for the province. After recognizing its value for local planning initiatives, they created a larger partnership with organizations across Canada to develop a national index, which was released on Sept. 10th, 2015. The index analyzes the affordability of rental housing for various income groups in more than 800 municipalities and regions, and all 338 federal electoral districts. The association plans to update the index after each Census period, “allowing us to track our progress in ensuring that all Canadians have access to affordable housing,” says the association’s website.
The index shows that in Canada, there are just over 13 million households, with just over 4 million (30 per cent) rentals. The Canadian average of household income for renters is $46,110, and renters spend $848 (22 per cent of their income) a month on rent and utilities. Forty per cent of renters spend more than 30 per cent of their income on rent and utilities, and 19 per cent of renters are spending more than half of their income.
In BC, there are 1,764,630 households with 517,430 (29 per cent) of them renting, nearly the same as the national average. Average household income for BC renters is just over nine per cent higher, at $50,434, but average rent and utilities is $988 – 16.5 per cent higher, which works out to 24 per cent of their income. In BC, close to half of renters spend more than a third of their income on rent and utilities, and one in five spendmore than half their income.
The website doesn’t break down the numbers for smaller communities like Valemount and McBride, but in the Regional District of Fraser-Fort George, there are 37,330 households, of which 9,720 (26 per cent) are rentals. Average household income is substantially lower than both the provincial and national average, at $42,889 (15 per cent lower than the provincial and 7 per cent lower than the national) and average rent and utilities is also lower, at $773 (21 per cent below the provincial and 9 per cent below the federal averages).
If you subtract the numbers for the city of Prince George from the regional district, it leaves 8065 households in the three smaller municipalities (Valemount, McBride and Mackenzie) and the rural areas, of which only 910 (11 per cent) are rentals. Rent is only slightly higher in the city ($785) than in the entire regional district ($773). A third of renters in these rural areas are paying more than 30 per cent of their income on rent and utilities, and 120 (13 per cent) are paying more than half of their income.
The index also looks at overcrowding – the number of renter households living in units that are not large enough for their household size, based on the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s National Occupancy Standard – as well as lists average prices paid by various income groups for various numbers of bedrooms in each area selected.
The index shows a severe to critical shortage of affordable rental housing in every province except New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.