Donald Kay

For Donald Kay, it's not easy to come up with monthly rent payments. (CBC)

Donald Kay admits it's tough to scrape together enough money for the first of the month.

He and his wife and grandson and several other family members recently moved into a three-bedroom house on Avenue H South, where rent is more than $1,300 a month.

"It is kind of difficult sometimes to come around and pay rent," said Kay, who admitted he's resorted to picking bottles and cans to make ends meet.

Housing advocates say Kay is not alone.

Rent almost doubled

Figures from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation show between 2003 and 2013, average rental costs in Saskatoon nearly doubled.

During that time, housing prices in Saskatoon and the surrounding area began to soar. According to city officials, average rental rates rose as newcomers moved to the city, and found rental properties scarce.

To make matters worse, renters' incomes have not kept pace, according to Alan Wallace, who runs the City of Saskatoon's planning and development branch,.

"The percentage of your income taken up with housing costs has risen from 30 per cent to over 40 per cent," said Wallace. "You start to push the boundaries of affordability at that point." 

Families feel the squeeze

Housing advocates said those on fixed incomes and social assistance are most likely to cut corners, in order to keep pace with rent increases.

Shirley Isbister

Shirley Isbister is the president of the Central Urban Metis Federation Inc. (CUMFI). She oversees efforts to find supported living arrangements for aboriginal people in Saskatoon's core, along with transitional and affordable housing. (CBC)

"You start having to use family allowance and your food money to pay rent," said Shirley Isbister, president of the Central Urban Metis Federation. The group provides transitional and emergency housing to aboriginal families.

She said over the past decade, overcrowding has become a serious problem.

"You've got two families living together because that's the way that they can afford to pay the rent," Isbister said, noting that often leads to cramped, unsanitary conditions. "Well that's a major challenge."


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Average apartment rent, Saskatoon (2003-2013)
SOURCE: Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation
Average House Price & Average Household Income
Saskatoon (2006-2014*)
* data is projected for 2014
SOURCE: City of Saskatoon Planning and Development