Rents ratcheting up

Yukon rental rates are on the rise. In March, the median monthly rent for Whitehorse hit an all-time high of $825, according to the latest figures from the Yukon Bureau of Statistics.

Yukon rental rates are on the rise.

In March, the median monthly rent for Whitehorse hit an all-time high of $825, according to the latest figures from the Yukon Bureau of Statistics.

That’s up from $775 at the same time last year and from $650 in 2003.

Every three months, the bureau surveys rates in buildings with three or more units to rent.

Houses, suites, rooms and duplexes are not included. Nor does it capture subsidized or government-owned housing (or illegal garden sheds.)

In Whitehorse, 1,010 units are surveyed. Most are two-bedroom, unfurnished apartments where tenants pay for their own heat and power.

Only 13 were empty at the end of March.

The listings in the classified ads – the few that there are – tell an even darker tale for those needing a place to lay their head.

These days a two-bedroom apartment in Porter Creek is going for about $1,400 a month, including utilities.

A one-bedroom with a den in Copper Ridge is slightly cheaper at $1,300. And then there’s the long-term hotel room downtown for $1,800 a month.

Rooms in shared houses are renting for $500-a-month or so. An actual house is more in the $2,000-plus range. Yet even at these prices, these places are quickly snapped up.

So quickly, in fact, that some landlords are loathe to advertise their vacancies for fear of the flood of calls.

Others have simply decided to take advantage of the growing need.

Reports are starting to surface of exorbitant rental increases.

The NDP told the legislature this week about some poor soul who just had their monthly rent jacked up from $1,100 to $2,000. That’s an astronomical increase of $900 a month or $10,000 a year.

Another person was slapped with a $500 a month hike, meaning they’ll be shelling out an extra $6,000 annually.

It must hurt, but they seem to have little choice but to suck it up. Apparently these are prices the market is now willing to bear.

Other landlords are cashing in on the condo craze.

Rather than renting the apartments in their buildings, they’re selling them as condominiums.

“Condo conversion” has been controversial in other cities where the market is tight.

That’s because it removes affordable rental units from the market, creating even greater demand and driving rents for existing places higher yet.

Both higher rents and rental-unit scarcity tighten the housing vise.

This doesn’t bode well. If the trend continues, by this time next year, when the government does its quarterly survey, the rental landscape is poised to look much different yet again.

And all indications are it won’t be a pretty picture.

Renters beware.

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