Sudbury

Rising housing costs on the minds of voters, parties in northern Ontario

While the cost of housing in Canada's big cities has driven votes in past federal elections, this is the first time northern Ontario voters will go to the polls thinking about which party is most likely to put a roof over their heads. 

Some fear government will bring in policies geared to larger cities, not northern Ontario

Kim Lediett, 42, of North Bay, Ont., has watched her rental costs climb steadily in recent years, and figures home ownership is now out of reach for her family. (Erik White/CBC )

Kim Lediett once owned a four-bedroom house with a big backyard.

That was just a few years ago.

The 42-year-old mother of three has been renting in North Bay, bouncing from place to place, being forced to live in a hotel for a month and watching the rental rates climb higher and higher.  

"It's gotten worse," she said. 

"Each time I would apply, they'd say, 'I've had 30 people looking,' and the next one, 'I've had 60 people looking,' and the next one, 'Oh wow, you're like the 100th applicant.'"

Lediett, who just recently sold her share of a small business, said she blew through $30,000 in savings in the past year paying her rent.

"When you're paying rent at $2,200 a month, you're funding someone else's retirement fund," she said. 

Sudbury's John Boxwell says there are no houses in his price range, so he's forced to rent a one-bedroom apartment starting at $1,300 per month. (David Donnelly/CBC)

Lediett is watching what the parties are promising on housing in this federal election, but isn't sure it'll make a difference for her. 

"I always wanted to get back to a house. I really don't think it's going to be feasible," she said. 

"Unless the government steps in and does something for everybody, the ones who can are going to make a killing and the ones who can't are going to scrape by."

Andrea Zavitz, a real estate broker with Century 21 in Sault Ste. Marie, says house prices have jumped up 20 per cent in the last year, and some buyers priced out of the market have 'thrown in the towel.' (Erik White/CBC )

John Boxwell has been house hunting in Sudbury since a recent separation.

The 47-year-old father of an 11-year-old girl says he's been preapproved for a $150,000 mortgage, but houses in that range are tough to find. However, he said, the cost of a one-bedroom apartment will cost him more than double per month.

"Well I'm going to have to get an apartment because I can't get a mortgage, so I'm going to have to get an apartment. I don't know — get another job I guess. I already work full time so I don't know how I'm going to do that, but I'm going to have to do something," said Boxwell. 

"If I had to rely on politicians for where I was going to live, pretty sure I'd be in a worse situation."

Andrea Zavitz, a real estate broker with Century 21 in Sault Ste. Marie, hears these kinds of stories regularly.

She said the cost of the average bungalow in the city has jumped up 20 per cent in the past year and there are far more bidding wars for the houses on the market. 

In all northeastern Ontario cities, housing prices have risen during the pandemic and houses are not staying on the market long. (Erik White/CBC )

"The community is almost taking it as a shock," said Zavitz. 

"There are people who actually do throw in the towel. You feel so badly for them because they just want a home."

Zavitz hopes the party that forms the next government following Monday's election doesn't look for a one-size-fits-all housing policy, and comes up with ideas specific to smaller real estate markets like those in northern Ontario. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Erik White

journalist

Erik White is a CBC journalist based in Sudbury. He covers a wide range of stories about northern Ontario. Connect with him on Twitter @erikjwhite. Send story ideas to erik.white@cbc.ca

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