November 10, 2016 | By: Alan McQuarrie

When Home Sharing Puts People on the Streets

A friend once told me of meeting a couple who were carefully dividing their restaurant meal onto two plates.  Married over 50 years, they proudly told him they share everything.  He was puzzled when the elderly man picked up the utensils and began to eat his portion.  With the elderly woman sitting quietly watching, he asked if she thought it was fair to have to wait.  She replied, “It’s his turn to use the teeth.”

We usually associate sharing with generosity.  When we share, everyone wins, or so we are told in kindergarten.  But a far different situation is arising in our largest cities.  With the arrival of the sharing economy, more and more people are having difficulty finding a home. 

One researcher noted that by renting a property through an online “sharing” site, an owner can make two to three times as much as someone listing a rental through a traditional, longer term lease.  For example, why would a landlord sign a lease for $500 to $700 when they can easily get $60 to $90 per night in high demand areas?  You would only have to rent a room for eight nights in a month to exceed the traditional lease.  Furthermore, landlords often ignore provincial and municipal legislation regulating rental housing when they use “sharing” services resulting in less hassle and cost.  With the reduction in traditional longer term leases, many new permanent residents are facing a shortage of housing.  In Vancouver, between January and June, there was an increase in “shared” short term accommodations of 17%.  At the same time, the availability of traditional leased properties is at 0.5% and falling. 

An aggravating factor in the shortage of rental housing is created by the new, tighter mortgage rules.

Due to changes in mortgage qualification rules, fewer people are eligible for traditional mortgages.

These people have little recourse other than the long term rental market.  More people are fighting for fewer rental spaces.  Toronto is even seeing a quarter of all rental units subject to “bidding wars” by renters.

Everyone needs a place to live.  Safe, affordable housing is one of the building blocks for a healthy and prosperous society. 

If you are in the market for affordable long term housing, here are some tips:
  • Ensure you have good references.
  • Access your networks in your new community; word of mouth is the best way to find accommodation.
  • Use the online sharing sites such as Craigslist or Airbnb and look for landlords who are open to longer term rentals at more reasonable reduced rates.
  • Use higher cost sharing accommodations in your new community for a short term while you look for a longer term solution.
  • Create a budget for housing and commuting.  Research options close to your workplace as well as options where you can travel. 
  • Consider sharing rental costs with a roommate or several family members.
  • Contact the local social services or housing authority who often maintain directories for low income housing.  Universities and colleges may also post available housing. 
The sharing economy and a tight property market are reducing the available rental housing in our biggest cities.  People are having to work harder to find a place to live.
If you have a tip on how to find rental accommodation in the city, leave a comment below.


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