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Recent notices sent to Cumberland Gardens tenants have shaken the community and reignited discussions about the lack of available rental units in our area.

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Cornwall and District Real Estate Board chairman Troy Vaillancourt said he has never seen the local vacancy rate as low as it is now.

“I have been involved in the real estate industry for the past 16 years. The vacancy rate in the area has generally hovered around four to five percent depending on the time of year. Depending on demand and available units, I would estimate it to be one to two percent currently,” Vaillancourt said. “There certainly aren’t enough rental units available right now to meet demand and even less affordable units are available for the majority of tenants looking.”

The problem of low availability has been accompanied by an increase in costs.

Premier Doug Ford launched a provincewide rent freeze in 2021 due to the pandemic, but that was lifted on January 1 of this year. Some tenants have found themselves packing their bags, as landlords have since hiked rental prices by up to 25%. Indeed, new buildings and new basement apartments occupied for the first time on November 15, 2018 are exempt from rent control, according to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing. Units built and occupied before that date are eligible for a maximum rent increase of just 1.2% in 2022.

Rent prices in and around Cornwall have risen significantly over the past two years. This matches rent prices and house prices across Canada,” Vaillancourt said. “Three years ago, you could rent a three-bedroom, single-family home for about $1,200 to $1,500 plus utilities. We see that same three-bedroom now asking for between $1,800 and $2,200 per month, and in some cases maybe more, depending on finishes and location.

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  1. Lawyer Robert Coulombe, during his presentation at City Hall.  File photo Wednesday, March 2, 2022 in Cornwall, Ont. Todd Hambleton/Standard-Freeholder/Postmedia Network

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    Residents of Cumberland Gardens in Cornwall receive eviction notices

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A quick Google search confirmed Vaillancourt’s data. Looking at various websites, the Standard-Freeholder found only a few rental units available in SDG, all listed at over $1,800, are not included, and some lack appliances, such as a stove and a refrigerator. A search for rental units in Cornwall reveals similar results.

The most affordable rentals available, at the time of publication, include Lorneville Apartments, with a partially inclusive one-bedroom unit at $1,350 per month on First Street, and a partially inclusive two-bedroom Skyline Living apartment at $1,310. per month.

Vaillancourt attributes the increases to demand issues and rising house prices, suggesting monthly homeowner costs have also increased and they are trying to compensate.
“From January 2022 to March 4, 2022, the average selling price of income property (duplex and triplex) in the City of Cornwall is $265,000, up from $143,000 and $162,000 in 2019 and 2020 respectively. In some cases, this equates to an additional $440 in mortgage payments per month for homeowners, plus added property taxes based on new values. In order for landlords to operate their income properties, rents need to increase,” Vaillancourt said.

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A few weeks ago, Ontario’s Housing Affordability Task Force released a report with 55 recommendations. The report highlighted important statistics, such as the need for 1.5 million homes in the province over the next decade to meet demand. But he did not address important topics such as rent control, the impact of investors on the market and the need for affordable housing. It also did not include the perspective of people experiencing homelessness or non-profit organizations.

Vaillancourt suggests tenants be extremely prepared before looking for rental units.

“Online sources such as Facebook Marketplace and Kijiji are where you will be able to find the majority of rental accommodations posted. Contact local property management companies and leave your information: what you are looking for and what you can pay per month. Have all your information lined up and ready to go, such as references, employment letter, income information…I would even go so far as to put together a type of resume for potential owners to have access to all your information in a clean and clear format. Anything you can do to stand out as a responsible tenant will definitely go a long way,” he said.

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