Top News

Nineteen per cent of City of St. John’s non-profit housing left vacant

Three- and four-bedroom apartments not being filled

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

Andrew Waterman

The Telegram

In the living room of an empty, three-bedroom downtown house, St. John’s Deputy Mayor Sheilagh O’Leary told reporters there is a 19 per cent vacancy rate in the city's non-profit housing, meant to be affordable for people with a low income.

O’Leary was there to announce the start of a campaign called Opening the Right Door Can Change Your Life, meant to raise awareness of the vacancies — approximately 90 empty houses, particularly with three- and four-bedroom apartments.

Against a backdrop of brightly painted but bare walls, she said exactly why they remain vacant is a good question.

“Perhaps some of the public may not be aware of their existence,” she said. “But also, when we set up our non-profit housing, oftentimes, the demographics have shifted.”

Originally, they were designed with larger families in mind.

“We see people, one- and two-person families, looking for a leg up in terms of housing,” she said. “The needs are shifting and I think that kind of shifts on a regular basis.”

The rent for these houses and apartments is based on 25 per cent of a family’s annual income. However, there are set rates. For instance, the Alexander Street house O’leary was using to speak to the media has a set rate of $780 a month, with the tenant paying their own utilities.

This means if a family with an income of less than $37,440 — 25 per cent of which is $780 per month — the rent would still be $780 a month.

However, though the city does look at applications on a case-by-case basis, families making less than $40,000 in yearly income are not the city’s target.

“We’re looking generally within the $40,000 to $50,000 range,” O’Leary said.

Families that make $40,000 a year would pay $833 a month for the Alexander Street apartment, plus utilities.

Families on the higher end, $50,000 a year, would pay $1,041 per month, plus utilities.

St. John’s Centre MHA Jim Dinn was there for the announcement. He says the biggest concern he hears from his constituents is affordable housing.

“I definitely wanted to find out how this can benefit the people I serve,” Dinn said.

“That’s probably the most frustrating, trying to find affordable housing, safe housing, clean housing that they can live in.”

Part of the issue, Dinn says, is that he wasn’t aware of these vacancies.

“I don’t know how it’s going to work out, but I was keenly interested in finding out the details, and (thinking), how do we redirect some of our people into this program, as well as Newfoundland and Labrador Housing,” he said.

One of the concerns for his constituents is maintenance of these apartments.

“We make a lot of calls to both NL Housing and St. John’s Housing, trying to resolve issues,” he said. “I’ve got to say both organizations have been helpful, although frustrating at times for them, in trying to resolve the issues.”

Dinn says he would love to see people who are facing affordable housing challenges be able to house themselves, raise a family and still have a decent quality of life.

“I’ve been in so many apartments where you’ve got people who’ve got blankets up over the doors, and they’ve shut off power elsewhere, because they’re having a hard time paying rent and heat and light and still put food on the table” he said.

“I think this is a good program and I’ll certainly do my best to promote it to the people who call my office.”

[email protected]



Did this story inform or enhance your perspective on this subject?
1 being least likely, and 10 being most likely

Recent Stories