Calgary

Banff's rental vacancy rate surpasses 1.1%

Recent efforts to make it easier to find a place to live in Banff appears to be paying off, says the mountain town’s mayor.

'It is good to see the availability of rental apartments exceed the 2022 target already'

Officials in Banff say the rental vacancy rate in town has nearly doubled, moving past 1 per cent for the first time in many years. (John Gibson/CBC)

The effort to make it easier to find a place to live in Banff appears to be paying off, says the mountain town's mayor.

For the first time in many years, the rental vacancy rate in Banff reached 1.1 per cent in 2018, up from 0.6 per cent in 2017, according to a report released this week.

The town has a strategic plan that specified a goal to reach one per cent by 2022, partly through initiatives to encourage private developers to build new housing.

"After several years of a zero per cent vacancy rate, it is good to see the availability of rental apartments exceed the 2022 target already, and there is a strong likelihood that we will grow in 2019," said Mayor Karen Sorensen in a release.

"But we have a way to go to achieve a healthy vacancy rate of between three and five per cent, as identified in the Banff Community Housing Strategy."

Banff has 173 more rental units this year than a year earlier, including 131 units in the newly built Ti'nu Apartments.

Other projects in development include price-restricted, for-purchase housing on Banff Avenue, and new rental apartments on Cave Avenue.

Sharon Oakley, Banff's manager of sustainable housing, says the uptick in availability is welcome news, as young people arrive for the winter to take jobs on the ski hills.

"We are one of two communities that sit in a National Park so our boundaries are tight, land is at a premium, and it's expensive and we can only build up three stories," she said.

"So this is great news for us because all of those lifties that come from Australia will be hearing, 'wow, the vacancy rate has increased, there might be a place that we could get.'"

The scarcity of rental homes in Banff has also led to an overcrowding problem. So the increasing vacancy rate will also ease that crunch, said Oakley.

"Approximately 12 per cent of the rental units in Banff are overcrowded, meaning there are too many people per bedroom. So when we start to see wiggle room with the vacancy rate that means that may be decreasing," she said.

Rents going down, too

Living in Banff is also getting more affordable, another report suggests.

According to the Job Resource Centre's fall Bow Valley Labour Market Review, average Banff rental rates decreased by 12 per cent compared with the same period last year.

Rental rates for three-bedroom units had the biggest decrease at 22 per cent.

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