Nearly one-in-five rental households in the Central Okanagan spent more than 50 per cent of their incomes on rent and more than four out of 10 spent more than 30 per cent.
Those regional figures emerge out of the latest Canadian Rental Housing Index and underscore that the problem of housing affordability has long stopped being a problem of B.C.’s major metropolitan areas like Greater Vancouver and Greater Victoria, having spread into areas once considered more affordable.
BC Non-Profit Housing Association developed the index in partnership with comparable organizations across Canada using data from the 2021 long-form census received from Statistics Canada through a customized data request.
It finds that 18 per cent of rental households in the Central Okanagan spend more than 50 per cent of their incomes on rent and utilities. The area (as defined by Statistics Canada) includes Kelowna, West Kelowna, Peachland and the District of Lake Country. Its population of 222,162 in 2021 grew by 14 per cent since 2016 with effects on the supply and cost of housing. Only two other regions in Canada — both in Ontario — had more rental households spending more than 50 per cent on housing and the Central Okanagan has emerged as one of the most expensive regions for renters in all of B.C.
The region’s share of households spending more than 50 per cent on housing matches the share in Greater Vancouver and exceeds the respective shares of the Sunshine Coast (17 per cent) and Greater Victoria (16 per cent).
These figures are far from abstract. According to the index, renters paying more than 50 per cent of their incomes on housing find themselves at increased risk of homelessness. They also represent the metaphorical tip of the iceberg that is the lack of affordable housing in the region.
According to the index, 44 per cent of rental households in the Central Okanagan — so almost half — spent more than 30 per cent of their incomes on housing. Experts consider housing that absorbs more than 30 per cent of income as unaffordable.
Only two other census regions in Canada — both of them Ontario — have higher shares.
The situation is not much better in other parts of B.C.
Forty-two per cent of rental households in the Okanagan-Similkameen census region just south of the Central Okanagan census region (including communities like Penticton and Summerland) and the Sunshine Coast census region pay more than 30 per cent of their incomes on housing. In the Nanaimo census region of Vancouver Island, the share is 41 per cent.
Overall, B.C. appears as the epi-centre of Canada’s housing crisis, especially for renters. Nowhere did rents increase faster between 2016 and 2021 than in British Columbia with 30 per cent, three per cent ahead of Ontario and nine per cent ahead of Manitoba.
The overall increase for all of Canada is 21 per cent.