Housing crunch in Valley extends to seniors

Vacancy rates plunge at homes for elderly in Abbotsford and across region

Canada Mortgage and Housing recently released its annual report on seniors' housing.

Canada Mortgage and Housing recently released its annual report on seniors' housing.

The region’s red hot housing market has had an impact on the demand for spaces in seniors’ residences in the Valley, according to a new report.

Vacancy rates in seniors’ homes in the region decreased in Abbotsford and across the central and eastern Fraser Valley this year, the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation said in its recently released annual seniors’ housing report.

And it’s become particularly hard to find independent living spaces with monthly rents below $2,400.

In Abbotsford, the vacancy rate in independent living spaces decreased from 7.4 per cent last year to 5.2 per cent in 2016. Just two years ago, the local rate was above 10 per cent.

Across the Fraser East region, which ranges from Abbotsford to Hope, the vacancy rate is 5.5 per cent. But the report notes that vacancies for lower-priced spaces are increasingly sparse.

The rate for those with rents under $1,900 per month is just 1.3 per cent, down fractionally from last year. And the rate for those spaces with rents between $1,900 and $2,399 decreased from 9.3 per cent in 2015 to 2.4 per cent last year. Across the region, those spaces constitute 44 per cent of all spaces.

It is much easier to find a vacancy for more expensive units, with 12.2 per cent of those with rents between $2,400 and $2,899.

Vacancy rates for “heavy care spaces” – where residents pay for 1.5 hours or more of care – remain low across both the region and British Columbia. The rate in Abbotsford’s region is just 2.8 per cent, unchanged from 2015. The B.C.-wide rate is even lower – 1.3 per cent, down from 1.8 per cent in 2015.

Despite the report, Fraser Health hasn’t seen a significant uptick in waiting times to get into its assisted-living facilities, according to spokesperson Tasleem Juma, who said the time to get into a local facility has fluctuated between 140 and 150 days for several years now, but that it has not risen substantially since the housing market took off late last year.

Those who are waiting, she said, generally do so in their own homes. Fraser Health has also made an effort to increase services to enable the elderly to remain in their own homes longer before entering a seniors’ residence.