Kelowna vacancy rate squeezing out potential employees

While most people living in Kelowna are well aware of how hard it is to find housing in the city, people moving here for work are starting to find out the harsh reality.

Samantha (who didn’t want her last name to be used) moved from Ontario to Kelowna with her fiancé last weekend, after he got a job in Kelowna.

Several days later, to her surprise, she hasn’t even come close to finding a place to rent.

“It seems like there are so many people in this rental pool right now that it is just super competitive and obviously the prices are ridiculous too,” she says “People are charging over two grand for a basement suite.”

Samantha and her fiancé, who are living in a hotel in the meantime, also have pets, which makes the search even harder. She says if she had known how “crazy” the rental market is, she would have started her search weeks ago.  

“I’ve learned very quickly that you have to be very fast,” she says “but even just like an hour or two after the listing’s up, usually they come back and they’re like ‘sorry, its rented.’”

Employers in Kelowna are also started to feel the squeeze.

Mike Guzzi, CEO of private arts school, Studio 9, says he recently had someone turn down a job, 3 months after initially accepting it, because he couldn't find a place to live.

“He was very sad because he was coming here for Studio 9,” Guzzi says “he wasn’t coming for the sunshine of Kelowna kind of thing, he was coming for this place, this position, and for him it was a dream job and he just couldn’t make it work”

Guzzi says the situation has made him re-think whether he should even consider hiring people outside of the Kelowna area. 

“When there’s lack of availability or the cost goes up, and we have no control over that, that’s something that becomes a heavy cost of doing business,” Guzzi says “and for us, it limits the number of people who would come here, just based on affordability of living here.”

Guzzi adds that there's even a parent at the school who is currently living at a hotel because he can't find a place following a move back to Kelowna.

The city has made efforts to increase housing availability; however some of the developments they have approved are still under construction.

The most recent outlook report from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation put Kelowna's rental vacancy rate at 0.5 per cent, with predictions it would increase by one per cent during 2017.