Single mom's rental search highlights Calgary's vacancy crunch

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Single mom's rental search highlights Calgary's vacancy crunch

A Calgary single mother of three says despite submitting hundreds of applications, it took her four months to find a place for her family to live in the city.

Sharon Stevenson had been looking since April, even checking Kijiji ads by the hour, trying to find a bigger home for the growing family — her 16-year-old daughter just had a baby.

"I didn't know if I had a home for them. I was scared, like, the next option is I send my 16-year-old daughter to go live on her own because the system will take care of her, and then I can find a smaller home for me and my boys. And to me that's not okay,” she said.

Even though she has a good job in the oil and gas sector, the biggest challenge was convincing people she wasn't a problem tenant, Stevenson said.

"They want to know dynamics of my home. I have to say I'm a single mom, they want to know my wages. Getting a response almost immediately is almost impossible," she said.

Last week Stevenson finally found the main floor of a house to rent in Forest Lawn. She said she'll continue to look for a full house to rent.

According to a rental market survey released last month by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), Calgary’s vacancy rate is tied with Edmonton as the lowest among major centres at 1.4 per cent.   

Bryan Sali, a housing locator with the John Howard Society, said he knows how hard it is to find a safe and affordable place in Calgary right now.

“I've seen it on several occasions where you go into a viewing and there's a long lineup of people looking at a place and some of those people have cheques in hand for more than the asking price,” he said.

Sali said his agency and many others just can't compete with that.