Comox Valley Echo
By: Drew A. Penner
Original article at: http://www.comoxvalleyecho.com/news/local-news/courtenay-facing-critical-housing-challenges-1.1794815#sthash.bcfmVPoN.dpuf
Image: These rental apartments going up in south Courtenay will be the first new ones built here in over 30 years

915 households spend over half of earnings to put a roof over their heads

Courtenay is facing “critical” rental housing challenges with 53 per cent of residents spending at least 30 per cent of their income on a place to live, according to a non-profit agency. This is worse than in Vancouver where 48 per cent of renters spend that proportion of what they make on rent plus utilities.
The results are part of a data project by the BC Non-Profit Housing Association (BCNHA), which ranked municipalities and regional districts across the province on a variety of renting metrics. It also examined the connection between housing and finances.
This Rental Housing Index ranked Courtenay 39th in BC for overall rental experience – better than Nanaimo – at 52 – but much worse than Comox – considered fifth best in the province. The Comox Valley Regional District was ranked 14th among regional districts.
“Comox is better than most cities,” noted James Roy, senior policy analyst at BCNHA. “It’s placed rather high.”
While it is cheaper on average to rent in the Comox Valley than in many other places, people end up having to spend a bigger portion of what they earn on rental units, partly due to the lack of adequate supply available.
The non-profit organization found it costs on average $849 a month to rent a two-bedroom apartment in Comox and $834 a month to rent a two-bedroom in Courtenay and $833 a month to rent a two-bedroom in the regional district (compared with $910 in Nanaimo).
In order for the poorest quarter of rental households to become comfortable (defined as spending 30 per cent of income on rent and utilities) it would take an extra $15,800 on average in Comox, $16,900 in Courtenay and $17,100 in the local regional district, every year.
This is not as bad as Nanaimo, where an extra $17,900 would be required to hit this target, or in Vancouver where $25,000 would do the trick.
BCNPHA gave Courtenay a “critical” score when it looked at overspending on rent. In the city 915 renter households pay more than 50 per cent of their income on rent and utilities.
“The Comox Valley has challenges but compared to the rest of the province it’s doing quite well,” Roy said. “We’ve got the bottom quarter of renter households facing some severe difficulties.”
In Port Alberni renter households making less than $15,130 and living in two-bedroom units pay an average of 48 per cent of their income each month on rent plus utilities, while in Courtenay the same type of earners would have to spend 79 per cent of their income to secure a similar apartment.
For families needing a three-bedroom apartment, this figure goes through the roof, jumping to 121 per cent of income (compared to 79 per cent in Port Alberni).
Courtenay Mayor Larry Jangula feels it should be up to the province to subsidize housing but said he thinks downtown revitalization – specifically getting builders to put residential units above urban businesses – could hold part of the answer to Courtenay’s rental woes.
“We could make it so affordable a builder would be crazy to go somewhere else,” he said, noting there’s already zoning in place for four-story structures in the commercial core. “We’re hoping somebody will take advantage of that.”