GUEST COLUMN: Sarnia’s hot real estate market not a boon for everyone

Pam Woodhurst

If there is one area of our economy that the pandemic hasn’t hurt, it’s real estate.

Pam Woodhurst

Sarnia’s housing market is in full swing, with too many buyers and a shortage of home inventory. What does that look like? Bidding wars.

The median sale price of a home in Sarnia-Lambton is about $450,0000, up 40% from last year. Desirable homes for sale are receiving multiple offers and many are selling for well over the asking price.

Buyers need to bid their highest offer and without conditions. Which means they must have their financing in order, not need to sell their current home immediately to buy a new one, and forgo the traditional house inspection.

And they will probably need to do this a few times before succeeding. This market is not for the fainthearted.

The days when Sarnia was a great place for our kids to buy a starter home or for middle-class retirees to downsize are ending. Yet, even as housing prices increase some are rushing to enter the market because they feel if they don’t jump now it will be too late.

Many are looking to the south end of the city where homes are generally less expensive.

We would do well to consider the trickle-down effect this surging real estate market is having on our city’s unemployed and working poor.

This community has a long-standing problem with a lack of affordable housing. And while Sarnia and Lambton County are trying to address the issue through regulatory changes and proposed new units, change can’t come soon enough.

Most rental homes are in the south end. Many people are out of work as a consequence of lockdowns, they can’t afford to pay their rent. Some landlords have chosen to sell. Others upgrade their properties and “renovict,” displacing low-income renters, raising rents, and contracting an already limited rental market.

Where do those renters go? Often they are forced into unsafe living conditions or become homeless.

Many of our residents were already struggling to find permanent housing before the pandemic. Since COVID, more and more are being housed in overflow shelters.

For some, the situation is dire. We would be wise as a community to ramp up our affordable housing plans and help those marginalized by this housing boom.

Pam Woodhurst is a retired ESL teacher who worked in Portugal and Angola and has lived in Sarnia the past 12 years.