If you’re single, finding an affordable rental is huge challenge
First in a series
Debbie Delesky couch surfed for more than a year before finally finding a place to live in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
A NOTL native, she has been living with a couple in Virgil since November, after spending about five months at a friend’s house in St. Catharines.
Since about 2021 she’s hopped among a half-dozen places — sometimes in different cities — seeking a place to call home while trying to make ends meet.
Delesky says she was paying her hosts rent but it was a temporary solution to her personal housing crisis.
She’s not alone, though.
Across Niagara, throughout Ontario and nationwide, the inability to find an affordable place to live is a common refrain for thousands.
In NOTL, rent for a two-bedroom home can easily exceed $3,000 a month. You might have better luck winning the lottery than finding an affordable one-bedroom in town.
In January, Delesky’s hosts gave her until the end of March to find a new place, but her move hit a snag because it seemed impossible to find an affordable apartment for one person.
Despite her predicament, Delesky actually might be considered one of the lucky ones.
There was light at the end of the seemingly dark tunnel thanks to a social media post on Facebook.
“I could not believe the outpouring of support,” Delesky told The Lake Report.
She posted on the NOTL 4 ALL Facebook group page in January, but didn’t receive many comments.
It wasn’t until she reached out again in February that her fortunes turned – with more than 40 comments from kind members of the community.
And, eventually, a place to stay. Thanks to the tips and leads she received, she found a studio apartment above a couple’s garage in NOTL.
Delesky said she felt like she “could finally sleep.”
“(I) couldn’t be more grateful,” she said in a text message to The Lake Report.
Delesky is 48, works in Virgil and wanted to find a place to rent in her hometown.
“I would like to stay in town. This is where I grew up,” she told The Lake Report.
However, finding affordable renting options in Niagara-on-the-Lake is “almost impossible,” she said.
For more than 12 months, she’s bounced among different living situations. When she was told she had until the end of March at her current place, she began to panic.
Her budget was about $1,000 a month since she’s living on her own.
“I’m working as much as I can and I know that I will have another part-time job in the spring, just (to) make more money. But it’s not easy for one single person,” said Delesky.
The options, especially in Niagara-on-the-Lake, are few. Rents are high – and supply is scarce.
When you look at the housing costs in Niagara-on-the-Lake compared to the rest of the region, NOTL is “a little bit of an anomaly,” said regional Coun. Andrea Kaiser.
And it is making it more difficult for residents to stay in town, she added.
As of early March, about 56 rentals in Niagara-on-the-Lake had been listed with the Niagara Real Estate Board in the previous 365 days.
The average listing was a three-bedroom, two-bathroom unit averaging $3,032 a month, said Cheryl Munce, a realtor with Engel & Volkers Niagara.
Of the 56 rentals, 23 were townhouses, 30 were houses and only three were apartments.
A search this month on Rentals.ca showed just five rental options in NOTL and the lowest price for a basement apartment was $1,545 a month.
A flyer on the kiosk outside the post office on Queen Street promoted a listing for a fully furnished, shared home for rent.
The price for the shared space was $1,250 to $1,350.
And only one apartment in Virgil was listed on Facebook Marketplace at $1,500 per month for a one bedroom.
Next week: Debbie Delesky’s situation raises some bigger questions — what options are there in Niagara-on-the-Lake for people looking to rent a studio or one-bedroom apartment at an affordable price? And what does the future hold for renters who want to live in NOTL. We’ll explore those issues in part 2 of this series.
By Somer Slobodian, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Published on Mar 22, 2023