People in Regina looking for a place to rent are up against a market where the vacancy rate is .5 per cent and many landlords are boarding up their properties.

Rob Deglau, a coordinator with the North Central Community Association, says the number and quality of rental homes in that neighbourhood has fallen dramatically.

'There's actually sewer spilloff in the basement' —Rob Deglau, North Central Community Assoc.

Deglau told CBC News that many people, who live in sub-standard accommodations, are scared that if they complain they may be evicted and have no place to go.

He described some places as simply deplorable.

"We've even seen it where toilets and sewer systems are not working and there's actually sewer spilloff in the basement," Deglau said. "And you still have people living in those basements."

The problem is magnified, he said, by property owners who have decided to not to rent a home, but hold onto a place as re-sale prices rise.

"They buy an $80,000 house and mothball it," Deglau said.  "Housing prices go up another 25, 30, 40 per cent.  Well guess what, you really didn't have to do anything in a year — just keep it boarded up. And we are seeing more boarded up houses than ever before in North Central."

He said that is forcing people into a unique form of homelessness: couch surfing from place to place. Many families, he said, are sharing homes.

"We are seeing families doubling up because they don't have a place to stay," he said. "So we can come into a house and there will be seven mattresses on the floor in the basement."

Deglau said the community association is hoping to work with a local shelter agency to build more low-income housing to address the problem.