Many tor­nado vic­tims still home­less

PressReader - Tke Channel - Many tor­nado vic­tims still home­less
Al­most a hun­dred Gatineau fam­i­lies are still home­less in the wake of a tor­nado that ripped through the Mont-Bleu neigh­bour­hood on Sept. 21 — and a tight­en­ing rental mar­ket and higher prices is mak­ing it harder for them to find new apart­ments. More than 215 build­ings suf­fered dam­age or were de­stroyed in the tor­nado, af­fect­ing 1,686 hous­ing units. In to­tal, 2,112 peo­ple reg­is­tered with the Que­bec branch of the Cana­dian Red Cross and 250 fam­i­lies asked for help from Of­fice habi­ta­tion de l’Outaouais, an in­de­pen­dent so­cial and af­ford­able hous­ing agency funded by the prov­ince of Que­bec. So far, about two-thirds of those have been re­lo­cated, said Ka­rina Osiecka, a spokes­woman for the agency. But the sud­den dis­ap­pear­ance of dozens of rental units, many in the cheaper end of the rental mar­ket, has pushed up rental prices, par­tic­u­larly in the Hull sec­tor.“Prices are higher and higher. And there’s not a lot of choice,” said Osiecka. “We see that prices are chang­ing al­ready. There are fewer avail­able apart­ments, and the prices are in­creas­ing. It’s a prob­lem that can’t be solved quickly.” To make things even more dif­fi­cult, Gatineau has one of the low­est va­cancy rates in Que­bec. Last year it stood at 3.8 per cent, and down to three per cent for units with three or more be­d­rooms. The Gatineau rental mar­ket has tra­di­tion­ally been less ex­pen­sive than Ot­tawa’s. Most peo­ple on Osiecka’s list are look­ing to pay be­tween $600 and $800 for an apart­ment. But these have be­come hard to find in the Hull and Mont-Bleu sec­tor, although prices have re­mained sta­ble in the Gatineau sec­tor, Osiecka said. Be­fore the tor­nado hit, 130 fam­i­lies at risk of home­less­ness were on the agency’s ros­ter. That list has now al­most dou­bled. “It’s com­pli­cated. There are no ho­tels in the Mont-Bleu area. And most peo­ple want to stay in the neigh­bour­hood be­cause it’s close to their chil­dren’s schools and their work,” she said. “It has been dif­fi­cult to find places for De­cem­ber. Now, we’re look­ing at Jan­uary, and it’s still dif­fi­cult. Peo­ple need so­lu­tions right now.”We see that prices are chang­ing al­ready. There are fewer avail­able apart­ments, and the prices are in­creas­ing.The Que­bec Red Cross has of­fered fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance for res­i­dents who are not in­sured, in­clud­ing as much as $200 a month to re­duce the gap be­tween the cost of new ac­com­mo­da­tions and ac­com­mo­da­tions that have been lost or are tem­po­rar­ily un­in­hab­it­able. But Osiecka says that of­fer is avail­able only for a limited time. Across the river in Ot­tawa, it’s un­clear whether the tor­nado has af­fected the price of rental hous­ing in a mar­ket that was al­ready tight and grow­ing in­creas­ingly ex­pen­sive. There were up­ward pres­sures on the prices of one- and two-bed­room apart­ments in Ot­tawa in Septem­ber, ac­cord­ing to PadMap­per’s most re­cent re­port, which an­a­lyzes rental data from ac­tive list­ings across Canada. “Ot­tawa is cur­rently the sixth-most-ex­pen­sive city, with one-bed­room rent up 2.4 per cent last month to $1,270, while two be­d­rooms grew 0.6 per cent to $1,570,” said Crys­tal Chen, a spokes­woman for PadMap­per. Year-over-year, prices for both types of unit are up more than 15 per cent, she said. “The grow­ing monthly and year-over-year prices show a strong de­mand in Ot­tawa that has not yet been met with enough avail­able sup­ply.” Last year, the va­cancy rate for Ot­tawa rentals was 1.4 per cent for one-bed­room apart­ments and 2.1 per cent for two-bed­room units, Canada Mort­gage and Hous­ing Corp. says. CHMC is to re­lease its rental mar­ket re­port on Nov. 28, and is ex­pected to in­clude in­for­ma­tion on the tor­nado’s im­pact on the rental mar­kets in Gatineau and Ot­tawa. Va­cancy rates in Ot­tawa will likely de­cline even more, pre­dicts Kevin McMa­hon of Ur­ban Logic, which pro­vides re­search and anal­y­sis for stake­hold­ers in the Ot­tawa’s res­i­den­tial in­vest­ment and devel­op­ment mar­ket. But apart­ment hunters dis­placed by the tor­nado will be just one of many fac­tors re­flected in the va­cancy rate, said McMa­hon, who points out that peo­ple from 180 homes were dis­placed on the Ot­tawa side, while there are 65,000 pur­pose-built apart­ments in the city. “That be­ing said, we have a mar­ket with an ex­tremely low va­cancy rate. So it doesn’t help mat­ters.”

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