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Residential rental rates rising in Cochrane, posing challenges to renters

Groceries, gas, and record-high inflation are all contributing to a cost-of-living squeeze in Cochrane, Alberta, and throughout Canada. Rental rates are rising as well.
Rentals
Rental rates in Cochrane are on the rise

Groceries, gas, and record-high inflation are all contributing to a cost-of-living squeeze in Cochrane, Alberta, and throughout Canada.

Now, rental rates can be added to that list, as it has become a major burden to those looking for property in Cochrane.

In one case, the sharp rise has forced a local family into their recreational vehicle for the time being.

Cecilia Hicks has lived in Cochrane with her family since 2015. They were renting a home in Sunset Ridge, but were told three months ago it was sold and they’d have to move out within the legally mandated 90 days’ notice.

When they started looking for a new house, they were shocked at what local rental rates had risen to, but were even more stunned at the lack of supply and fierce competition.

Still looking for a new house to call home, they are currently living in their RV until they can find a new place. They left a large three-bedroom single family house with a double-car garage, which cost them $2,350 per month to rent.

“Now we would be lucky to get a duplex for that price. We have two dogs which makes everything more expensive and if we were in competition with someone without pets, we would inevitably lose to them,” she said in an email.

Hicks’ husband owns and runs a hardwood flooring company, which provides them with $8,000 per month in income. They have three kids, ages 12, 14, and 16.

The catalytic converter on their RV was stolen recently while parked at Big Hill Springs Provincial Park, so the money meant for a security deposit for a new rental went toward replacing it instead.

“I don’t know if we can stay in Cochrane – we might have to move to Airdrie or Calgary, which is a shame because our kids have friends here and we have family here,” she said.

The average rent for all Canadian properties listed on Rentals.ca was $1,888 per month for May, which is a year-over-year increase of 10.5 per cent.

This also represents a month-over-month increase of 3.7 per cent – the largest monthly increase since May 2019. The data includes single-detached, semi-detached, townhouse, condominium apartments and rental apartments.

Nationally, according to Rentals.ca, “demand for larger units was a noticeable trend during the pandemic, with more people needing to work from home, and parents needing more space for children at home full time.”

This trend has not dissipated in the post-vaccine and return-to-work era, according to the report. They also predict uncertainty in the housing market and rising interest rates will likely continue to put upward pressure on rental rates into the fall.

The Hicks’ initial search in Cochrane revealed an ultra-competitive market, where price gouging was clearly putting rentals out of reach.

“I never, ever expected us to experience something like homelessness, that’s insane,” she said in an interview. “We have a decent income, we’re responsible people, we pay our bills, but there’s just nothing available.

“If someone can afford $3,500 a month, why are they renting?” she asked.

She said some landlords are asking whatever they want, as there is limited supply.

“One was asking $3,900 for a townhouse, I mean, ‘Have you lost your mind?’”

Unlike other provinces, there is no cap on rent increases in Alberta. British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, and Prince Edward Island all have some form of rent control.

Supply and demand

Whereas escalating rental rates in major cities are being attributed to such factors as rising Bank of Canada interest rates, (and how they affect mortgage rates), immigration, lumber shortages, supply chain issues, inflation, etc., a local rental agent argues the situation in Cochrane is more straightforward.

Rob Low of Rent My Home Property Management argues the cause of the rise in rental rates in Cochrane is simply supply and demand.

“This is definitely the busiest it’s been as far as demand, and we definitely have more demand than we have supply,” he said.

Rent My Home manages over 100 residential properties in Cochrane, according to Low. This year has been the busiest for them in the five years under current ownership.

Low said ‘newish’ townhouses are renting at a minimum of around $2,000 per month but are more likely in the $2,300 range, depending on amenities like parking and garage size. As recently as a year ago, those same properties would have been going for as little as $1,500, he says.

“Apartments haven’t gone up as much as houses have because Cochrane has so many apartment buildings, especially those ones up in Sunset Ridge, so that has kept the prices down a little bit,” Low said.

Rental rates for detached houses have gone up even more, as there are so few available.

“Cochrane predominantly attracts families with children and pets who want a three-bedroom, two-car garage, with a basement and a yard and they’re hard to come by,” Low said. “You can’t get those for under $2,500 per month, whereas a year ago you could find them for about $2,000.”

Hicks predicts that people are going to be forced into lying on applications and then squatting in the property without paying the rent, holding on as long as they can.

Despite the experience with price-gouging and supply challenges, Hicks is moderately hopeful the situation will eventually become remedied.

“It looks like the rental prices are starting to behave themselves a little bit, but it was really insane for a little while,” she said.

“But it’s gotten to the point where I don’t get excited anymore.”