Low rental availability leads to desperation for some Edmontonians

Edmonton’s fierce rental boom is making it difficult for some people to afford suitable housing.

One family is dealing with bed bugs and faulty piping because they can't afford to move

Kristen Grenier said it took her four months to find a two-bedroom apartment she and her partner could afford for their family of four. But the unit has bed bugs and a leaky bathroom ceiling. (CBC)

Edmonton’s fierce rental boom is making it difficult for some people to afford suitable housing.

New statistics show Edmonton and Calgary have the lowest rental vacancy rates and some of the highest rent increases in Canada.

A vacancy rate in below 2 per cent is usually considered an undersupplied market — in Edmonton and Calgary, that number sits at 1.4 per cent. 

In Edmonton, that means the cost of a monthly rent is rising faster than inflation, leading to a highly competitive rental market, particularly when it comes to two-bedroom apartments.

Kristen Grenier said it took her four months to find a two-bedroom apartment she and her partner could afford for their family of four.

The Highlands apartment, which has bed bugs and a leaky bathroom ceiling, costs them $975 every month.

"My son's waking up in the middle of the night, ‘mom, I'm itchy, mom, my toes.’"

Now, Grenier said she wants to move, but has not been able to find anything else suitable in her price range.

"Everything goes fast. Everyone has a waiting list," she said of her house hunt.

“[It] makes us feel pretty, pretty low, right? Like we're not worth living in a bigger place or a better place. Like our family is, this is what we're worth, that's it. It's really hard.”

The Grenier family said they have applied for subsidized housing, but were told it could take up to three years before any aid comes through.

"It's a recipe for housing disaster,” acknowledged Mayor Don Iveson, who is now urging the federal government to step in.

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