Do You See What I See? Misleading Information From Global News and Kingston’s Mayor

by Ana From Canada on March 3rd 2021

As a community-conscious lifetime resident of Kingston, and renter since 1997, I see local circumstances from the inside. My knowledge of Kingston runs deep, my experiences as a resident run deeper. Because of that, I was personally affected by this article titled ‘Kingston’s vacancy rate rises to 3.2 %, matches provincial average’, published by Global News on January 29th 2021 and written by Alexandra Mazur.

The data in the report is absolutely skewed and wrong. Global News is failing to research and report genuinely or in depth. The CMHC (Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation)  is blatantly dispersing important statistics inaccurately, and Kingston’s Mayor, Bryan Paterson, is using this situation to polish his reputation. 

To be specific, it is this particular claim by Global News that is clawing at my mind:

The real causation for residential vacancies suddenly surging is the

domino effect of the pandemic, not solely owing to

ongoing efforts by City officials. 

Tossing a single unsupported fact about students signing leases pre-pandemic is NOT a credible measure of cause and effect. I quote, ‘Although this change comes the same year as the pandemic, CMHC does not believe the vacancy rate was affected by fewer students returning to Kingston, because most students signed leases before the full impact of the pandemic was realized’ and ‘Mayor Bryan Paterson is counting this as a win for city housing priorities’.

‘[City officials] introduced a number of innovative policies and last year we saw a record amount of new housing construction,” was the sentiment of Mayor Paterson.

Global News failed to consider the following: 

  • The residential renting market rose in January/February of 2021.
  • Some students subletted out months prior to the vacancy spike.
  • Most student housing is short term; ‘student leases’ (if they have leases at all) are August to May with some students committing to annual leases in August or September. 

What do those facts mean? 

CDMC states that ‘students already signed their leases’, but social behaviour highlights that student rental commitments would have ended in May/June, dates that fall outside the 2021 spike. August (or September) of 2020 would have been when new and returning students signed leases for the upcoming school year, but they chose not to relocate locally. Sources from St. Lawrence College have verified that ‘many [students] are attending from outside cities’. 

CTV News recently published an article on this subject pertaining to Vancouver, which states, ‘… the shift to online learning means many students, especially international students, have moved away from campus’. It goes without saying that sources weren’t necessary to add credibility to that statistic – eyes, ears, and common sense are enough. 

To clarify, CMHC and Global News are unreliable sources on this matter, and possibly many other concerning topics. How deep does the well go? And, contrary to their widely trusted statements, the pandemic has affected schools, therefore affecting students, causing rental vacancies to dramatically increase in an inordinate time frame.

What about factors outside of students?

Why have Global News, CMHC, and Mayor Paterson all failed to weigh up additional factors? It isn’t lost on a person of any level of awareness that Paterson, CMHC, and Global News are far wiser than to haphazardly disregard other variables which leaves one to wonder what they have to gain by fluffing up drivers of rental vacancy momentum.

Currently, many people are in financial duress and, when in such states, they make drastic changes for survival. Some of those changes are:

  • Moving in with family to alleviate financial stress.
  • Downgrading living expectations e.g. moving from 3 bedroom to 1 or 2 bedroom accommodation. 
  • Rising homeless circumstances.
  • Moving out of town to more affordable housing.
  • Staying out of town (as previously touched upon with students as an example).

CTV News reported, ‘CMHC’s survey suggests both the overall vacancy rate and the average rent in Vancouver have gone up’.

The vacancy rate has increased to 2.6 per cent, from 1.1 per cent, according to the survey. CMHC says this is due to ‘higher supply and lower demand over the last year’.

Now, let me highlight “lower demand”. 

The same article also notes, ‘Experts suggest some of the changes are due to a large number of young people and others who work in the service industry losing their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic. They make up a significant portion of the rental market’.

Isn’t it nubilus that the same organization reporting the same statistic with similar variables is feeding readers a completely different cause evaluation? Either way you toss that coin, there’s a lie that’s not well buried. 

But wait, there’s more:

  • Foreclosures on house and building ownership has forced rental residents and owners to relocate.
  • Rising divorce and separation rates (as reported by BBC and Global News).
  • We are in a recession (declared by the C.D Howe Institute Business Cycle Council), but such an important factor is ignored.
  • Investors who bought units for Air BnB have redesigned to encourage long term leasing.
  • Rising death rates due to drug use after many low income persons who struggled with addictions received CERB, or that they are using alone due to isolation mandates.
  • And, immigration numbers have halted.

Without a doubt, that list could rapidly grow with the slightest surface scratch, but I feel that the point is executed.

Finally, if Mayor Paterson truly believes that the rapid boom in Kingston rental vacancies is solely a byproduct of City officials strategies then the threat to maintaining growth is eminent. It is exceedingly vital that ALL defining factors are measured to establish stabilizing groundwork that will prepare the city for the obvious rise. 

Who, what, when, where, and how? 

  • How will the rental rise be maintained when the pandemic is over and the plethora of current factors decline or vanish? 
  • What can we take away and recycle from present causes?
  • Estimating when the increased vacancy will fall is paramount to softening certain abrupt negatives.
  • Where are the blind spots? What are we missing and how can risks be prevented?
  • Who is going to be most impacted?

Those are only a few details that will negatively define the future of Kingston, it’s long term and visiting residents, while Bryan Paterson profits from the current rental growth. Least not the community’s trust in the Mayor’s foresight and dependability. 

Now, I’m not saying that the ‘innovative policies’ and strategic movements around Kingston’s housing tyranny isn’t helping – it would be brow lifting to say that building development rendered zero results. What I am saying is that the article published by Global News shines with a ‘from the outside’ glow and casts shadows of ‘scratch mine and I’ll scratch yours’. The data processed to produce the informative post on the rise in rental vacancies failed to collect very much data and risks misinforming the public. 

Be weary of what you read online: Not everything is true, not everything is a lie, but fragmentary information impairs the reader’s point of view. 

Do you see what I see? 

A Special thank you to Megan Georgia for assistance with final editing. Megan Georgia, Editor in Manchester, UK | Reedsy