Finding a place to rent in Port Colborne isn't easy. Vacancy rates right across Niagara are at historic lows, and Port Colborne is among the hardest hit.
According to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), the vacancy rate for a rental unit in Port Colborne is sitting at zero per cent. Between 2013 and 2017 the vacancy rate hovered around 2.3 per cent according to CMHC, before taking a sharp dive downwards in 2018, bottoming out at zero per cent this year.
"When I did a quick search for rentals in Port Colborne, I couldn't find anything," said Adam Kitchener, a real estate developer from Hamilton. "There was literally nothing to rent."
Recognizing a rental crunch, Kitchener said he immediately began looking around for a property he could bring to the market.
"And that's how I ended up finding this place," he said, standing in the empty living room of a newly renovated multi-residential housing unit right in the heart of the city. "It's such a beautiful building, but it's been sat here empty, not doing nothing for nobody, for far too long."
The iconic blue brick building at 106 Main St. has transformed over the past few months from yet another vacant building, into a four-unit rental house aimed at the affordable seniors market.
But just as finding a place to rent is difficult, so too is bringing a rental unit to the market. Kitchener's journey from purchasing the building, to putting the units on the market, was a whirlwind of renovations, setbacks, permit applications, delays, more renovations, and a final coat of paint.
"The previous owner had been doing some work on the property, but it was all being done without permits, it wasn't up to code, so a lot of our work was actually undoing and redoing a lot of what he had done," said Kitchener.
There were wiring issues, plumbing issues, drywall issues and more. Getting the building up to fire code was also another major hurdle. Port Colborne is known to be a strict enforcer of fire regulations, particularly with rental units. Last month, the city issued a landlord with nearly $10,000 in fines related to improper fire safety regulations.
"The city takes its fire code very seriously, and we appreciate that," said Kitchener. "We value safety and want our tenants to be as safe as they can be."
After pouring more than $130,000 worth of renovations into the house, the big blue building on Main Street is now ready to roll.
"I love the look of this building. It's got a lot of this exposed brick, which looks really sharp, so we tried to preserve that as much as we could," said Kitchener.
The four units are hitting the rental market this week for $1,000. Based on market research, Kitchener said he expects the tenants to be seniors, though anyone is welcome.
Interested tenants can reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about the rental units.