'Just blind hope': 3 stories from London's tight rental market

Whether it's pay more or live outside your target neighbourhood, a tight rental market is forcing many London renters to compromise in their search for accommodation.

3 renters share their stories of finding accommodation with vacancy rates below 2%

Whether it's pay more or live outside your target neighbourhood, a tight rental market is forcing many London renters to compromise in their search for accommodation. (CBC)

With London's vacancy rate at below two per cent, CBC London spoke to three renters about their search for accommodation in an increasingly tight rental market. 

All said they had to compromise when looking for apartments or houses to rent and some even said prices have jumped considerably in recent years. 

Here's what they told us:

A recent university graduate

Elyse Moore is a recent university graduate who is looking for an apartment with her friend. She's hopes to find a two-bedroom place with a combined rent in the $1,000 range, but says that's increasingly hard to find in London's tight rental market. (Andrew Lupton/CBC)

Elyse Moore, 23, has been searching for a two-bedroom apartment to share with a friend. She's currently living with her parents after graduating in 2016. She's also still paying student loans and has been looking for an apartment since April. 

Moore works two part-time, minimum-wage jobs and wants something in central London, with a combined rent in the $800 to $1,000 range.

"Anything above $1,000 would pull our purse strings too tight," she said.

Finding a clean apartment within her budget has proved difficult so far in her search. Often she was enticed by a price, then turned off by the state of the place.

"They have bugs, the apartments are run down and they're not in the best areas of town," she said. 

London's low vacancy rate meant that often, property managers and landlords wouldn't bother to call back. 

"A lot of times I email or call but I get nothing back and the ad stays up," she said. 

Moore's apartment search began last year, but she said the market has tightened up considerably since then. 

"It seems like last year there was always something available, there was a lot more range in places. And then this year I've been lucky to get maybe four responses back out of the 30-plus emails I've sent," she said.

"You have to have a job that pays at least higher than minimum wage or be working 70 hours a week to afford an OK location of London," she added.

Moore said she's close to securing an apartment for $925. It's clean and recently renovated but she had to compromise on location. It's near Oxford and Quebec streets, which isn't close to either of her jobs. 

A mother of two

A renovation forced Michele Hosson out of her rented house in London's Blackfriars neighbourhood. She managed to find another house in the area, but for $400 more a month. (Andrew Lupton/CBC)

This spring, Michele Hosson was scrambling.

The mother of two children in elementary school was evicted from her house in the Blackfriars neighbourhood and needed to find another place. 

She wanted to stay in the same area so her kids wouldn't have to switch schools. At the time, she was paying $1,400 a month 

"The big issue when searching for a house is finding one that's suitable for families, not just for students," she said. 

The evicting landlord agreed to pay Hosson's first and last month's rent at her next place if she could move out quickly. 

"Then the big search started, because now I'm cramped for time," she said. "We didn't want to move from the neighbourhood. We loved it there, our kids had made friends."

The best she could find was another four-bedroom house much smaller than the place they left. But at $2,000 a month, it was also $600 more.

She ended up talking the landlord down to $1,800 and moved in April. 

Hosson is a full-time teacher with a part-time second job. Her partner has a disability and can't work. She was hoping she'd be able to leave the part-time gig but with the rent increase, the second job will have to stay, she said.

The newcomer to London

Cindy Scheible launched her search for a London apartment back in February from St. Catharines, where she was living. She says many landlords are reluctant to rent to people on social assistance. (Andrew Lupton/CBC)

It took Cindy Scheible more than four months to find a place in London.

At the time, she was living in St. Catharines but wanted to be closer to her daughter who lives in London and family members in Michigan.   

"We started in mid-February and would come on the weekends to look for a place. We'd set up appointments and nothing ever panned out," she said.

Scheible said she thinks many landlords are reluctant to rent to someone on social assistance. She has teenaged twins and needed a three-bedroom place. 

"My budget was anywhere up to $1,800," she said. "We found a lot of places that fit that, but nobody would ever accept us. A lot of the places wanted a letter of employment. It wasn't until the end of May until we found someone what would give us a chance."

She managed to find a place in the area of Fanshawe Park Road and Highbury Avenue.

Overall, she said the search was exhausting. 

"It's just really difficult finding a place because there are so many people looking at the same time. There were open houses that we would go to and there were a dozen people looking. It was madness," she said.

She's currently staying with a friend in St. Thomas until her new place is ready in August.