Welcome to part five of the Strathmore Housing Crisis series. This mini-series documents several stories told by Strathmore and area community members detailing many aspects and perspectives around Strathmore and area's current housing situation.

Many stories and experiences have been shared about Strathmore's housing crisis. Whether it's people living in trailers or community members forced to leave town, there's been no shortage of people struggling to find an affordable place to live in Strathmore. But just how serious is the situation?

Realtor with Re/Max KEY Carey Rose explained the stories aren't exaggerating, and in fact, the situation may be even worse than you think.

"As rent goes, there's technically a 0% vacancy," she said.

Rose says "technically" because you will still see apartment and rental listings on websites, but each listing is either taken so quickly or has such strong interest it can't be considered vacant.

"Quite a few landlords that I've spoken to recently, they're seeing up to 40 or 50 applications per rental property listing. A lot of them don't even make it to advertising. They go word of mouth."

"So for example, you could rent a single-family house in Strathmore pre-pandemic for around $1600 a month plus utilities. Right now we're seeing that exact same home renting for typically $2500 a month plus utilities on average."

It's not just home rentals that have skyrocketed, as Rose added things like townhomes and half-duplexes used to rent at around $1000-1200 a month, but have now gone up to an average of $1800 a month. Basement suites used to be around $600-700 a month, and have now jumped up to $1200-1500.

"If you're looking in the rental market in Strathmore right now, you really need to be comfortable and prepared with a budget of at least, on average, $1800 a month plus utilities." 

It's not just the rental market that's suffering, buyers looking for a house have seen a dangerously low supply too. Rose explained a typical healthy housing market has six months of supply, but this year Strathmore has been averaging just one month of supply, which is down 38% from last year. These supply numbers indicate how long the housing market would last if no new sellers emerge, so in this case that means Strathmore would only last one month before being completely out of houses.

"The total residential price this year is up 4.7% from last year. So we're we're seeing the inflation continue to rise. The total residential average price in Strathmore is sitting at $404,800 right now. Pre-pandemic, we were sitting at under $300,000." 

What needs to be done to address the shortage and continually rising prices? Rose believes garden suites could be a potential option to help ease the market, but ultimately pointed to interest rates as the driving factor for Strathmore's housing struggles.

"I really feel that interest rates need to come down. Let everyone move around, and do what they want to do affordably, and that will bring the inventory back into the market. The amount of transactions that would occur would actually hold the inflation because when supply meets demand, the inflation stops and when supply goes above demand, then the inflation starts to go down."

Even though the housing situation is bleak right now, Rose wanted to tell the community that brighter times are ahead, and even though it seems near impossible to find a place to live in Strathmore at the moment she still believes in our community. 

"We are in tough times right now, but we'll get through this, here in Alberta we're strong, we're vibrant. We don't give up. Strathmore is an amazing place to live and raise your family."

If possible, she also recommended "taking the plunge" into property ownership, as "you marry the house, you don't marry the rate." Saying the rate is up for negotiation every five years, she expects this investment to be worth it long term as Strathmore's economy is expected to grow and she believes interest rates will go down eventually.

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