What is Saint John’s housing situation?

From PlanSJ documentation: Housing is the most dominant building type in any city and is a critical element of any municipal plan. There are 32,000 private dwelling units in the City, with iust under 3,000 being vacant or owned by landlords or other investors from outside the City.

Apartment units (including condos, rentals and other multi-unit buildings) comprise the largest portion of the City’s housing stock, followed by single-detached houses. In contrast, single-detached houses are the dominant dwelling type in both Fredericton and Moncton.

The percentage of owned units differs significantly among Canadian cities. Home ownership in the City of Montreal is 34% while in the City of Calgary it stands at 72%. The City of Saint John’s housing stock is camprised of 56% owned dwelling units and 44% rented units. The City represents 87% of the CMMs total rental housing stock, but represents less than half of the region’s owned housing stock.

Nearly 44% of the City’s housing stock (14,000 units) was built prior to 1960 and is more than 50 years old. Some of these dwellings are highly valued for historic or architectural reasons. However, many are in poor condition and 9.4% are in need of maior repair. Fewer dwellings in Fredericton (7.4%) and Moncton (6.4%) are in need of major repair.

Between 2001 and 2006, the City’s housing stock grew by 1.2% (406 units). During this same period, the proportion of owned units increased from 54% to 56%. Movement into the ownership market is a result of a variety of factors including increased housing options, employment and income growth and favourable interest rates.

More than half (59%) of the Region’s housing market is valued at less than $150,000. 15% of houses are valued at more than $200,000.

In the City of Saint John, housing construction peaked in 1991 and 1998 with 55% and 60% of total regional starts. A soft recovery occurred in 2008 after years of continued loss of new housing construction to surrounding communities such as Rothesay and Quispamsis.

In 2009, housing construction and sales of existing homes moderated and created a “balanced market.” New home construction and listings and sales of existing homes indicate that the average household is generally well-served by the City’s and Region’s housing market. The average sale price of an existing home increased 9% to $175,000 in 2009.

There are nearly 7,800 rental units in Saint John with a vacancy rate of 3.6% in 2009 (up from 3.1 % in 2008). The rental market remains balanced with vacancy rates within the 4% range that is generally considered normal. Average market rents in the City increased from $587 to $613.

In 2006, 9.6% of households in the Region spent more than 30% of their income on housing, lived in housing that is too small for the number of occupants, or lived in housing that needed major repairs. This is an improvement from 11.2% in 2001 and is lower than the Canadian average of 13.6%.

It is generally accepted that a household should pay no more than 30% of gross income for shelter costs. Some homeowners spend more than this because they are able to, but many renters often have fewer choices. 37% of rental households in Saint John pay more than 30% of gross income for shelter; a problem that tends to be experienced more by single-parent families, seniors and single-person households.

Despite the general affordability of Saint John’s housing market in relation to other Canadian cities, many Saint Johners can’t afford market housing even at the lowest market rent because of the high percentage of people who live in or near poverty. Homelessness is another important issue in Saint John. It’s not possible to offer a precise number of people who are homeless. However, social agencies estimate that there are at least 200 homeless individuals in Saint John.

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