Vacancy rate dives

Vacancy rates in Kitimat turned dramatically recently as increased industrial activity means out-of-town workers need housing.

Vacancy rates in Kitimat turned dramatically recently as increased industrial activity means out-of-town workers need housing.

“I’m 100 per cent full right now,” said Kevin Coelho, who owns and manages nine apartment buildings in the area.

Hotel owners, apartment complex owners and realtors alike all said it’s the out-of-town workers who are filling the spaces and that this year, business made a dramatic shift.

The stats back it up. Kitimat no longer has the highest vacancy rate in the province. Canada Mortgage and Housing’s rental market report for the Kitimat region, which includes data from purpose-built rental units like apartment complexes, shows Kitimat’s Vacancy rate in April 2011 ranked third from the top at 12.8 per cent. Bachelor and one bedroom apartments, which accounted for much of the vacancy, were 21.1 and 21.6 percent empty  respectively. Both types of units have mostly filled since.

And even though a dropping vacancy rate means higher rent prices, Kitimat still has the lowest in the province.

All of Coelho’s 263 units are bachelor, one or two bedrooms, accounting for 52 per cent of like units surveyed. Now, he is turning people away. He was full June 1st, and estimated June 2010 a third of units were empty.

“Unfortunately it could be a short term thing,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of rentals from Eurocan, Methanex and the Rio Tinto Alcan modernization.”

Coelho said that when the dismantling of both Eurocan and Methanex is done, subcontractors will leave. For now, he’s full because it’s less expensive to rent an apartment for one month than it is to stay in hotels.

“We’ve furnished over 100 apartments since March,” he said. “We have people stay for a week and rent for a month.”

But most local hotels are filling too.

“The middle of April is when it started,”  said Karen Bendfeld who works front desk at the Chalet Motel. “We’re just about full all of the time.”

Bendfeld said she notices workers taking what they can get while they wait for apartments.

“A lot of them double up too,” she said.

At the Kitimat Lodge, manager Debbie Pressacco sees an increase in long-term bookings.

“We usually see a lot of fisherman, there’s a lot of workers this year.”

The Minette Bay Lodge has changed it’s business strategy to accomodate the shift, focusing now on corporate clients.

“We’re probably 75 per cent full,” said owner Howard Mills, who explained the lodge tends to accommodate senior management from out of town.

All hotels noted vacancy fluctuations due to the temporary nature of their clientele.

Remax owner Manuel Leite said that while his real estate business nearly doubled  sales this year, an increase in listings means housing prices raised slightly.

“I am confident that prices are not going down,” he said, adding that increased economic activity in the area creates buyer-optimism. However, contractors account for a small portion of buyers, he said. Executive-style homes, meaning renovated or newer multiple-room homes with basements, are of interest to smaller companies and executives with families moving to town.

And while home-rentals are not accounted for in the CMHC survey, Manuel said housing rentals have increased and that their prices, too, have gone up.

“I am confident that prices are not going down,” he said, adding that increased economic activity in the area have spurred buyers with optimsim.

However, contractors account for a small portion of buyers, he said.

Leite explained that executive-style homes, meaning renovated or newer multiple-room homes with basements are of interest to smaller companies and executives with families moving to town.

And while home-rentals are not accounted for in the CMHC survey, Manuel said housing rentals have increased and that their prices, too, have gone up.

 

 

 

 

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