The article you just read was brought to you by a few thousand dedicated readers. Will you join them?

Thanks for coming by The Tyee and reading one of many original articles we’ll post today. Our team works hard to publish in-depth stories on topics that matter on a daily basis. Our motto is: No junk. Just good journalism.

Just as we care about the quality of our reporting, we care about making our stories accessible to all who want to read them and provide a pleasant reading experience. No intrusive ads to distract you. No paywall locking you out of an article you want to read. No clickbait to trick you into reading a sensational article.

There’s a reason why our site is unique and why we don’t have to rely on those tactics — our Tyee Builders program. Tyee Builders are readers who chip in a bit of money each month (or one-time) to our editorial budget. This amazing program allows us to pay our writers fairly, keep our focus on quality over quantity of articles, and provide a pleasant reading experience for those who visit our site.

In the past year, we’ve been able to double our staff team and boost our reporting. We invest all of the revenue we receive into producing more and better journalism. We want to keep growing, but we need your support to do it.

Fewer than 1 in 100 of our average monthly readers are signed up to Tyee Builders. If we reach 1% of our readers signing up to be Tyee Builders, we could continue to grow and do even more.

If you appreciate what The Tyee publishes and want to help us do more, please sign up to be a Tyee Builder today. You pick the amount, and you can cancel any time.

Support our growing independent newsroom and join Tyee Builders today.
Before you click away, we have something to ask you…

Do you value independent journalism that focuses on the issues that matter? Do you think Canada needs more in-depth, fact-based reporting? So do we. If you’d like to be part of the solution, we’d love it if you joined us in working on it.

The Tyee is an independent, paywall-free, reader-funded publication. While many other newsrooms are getting smaller or shutting down altogether, we’re bucking the trend and growing, while still keeping our articles free and open for everyone to read.

The reason why we’re able to grow and do more, and focus on quality reporting, is because our readers support us in doing that. Over 5,000 Tyee readers chip in to fund our newsroom on a monthly basis, and that supports our rockstar team of dedicated journalists.

Join a community of people who are helping to build a better journalism ecosystem. You pick the amount you’d like to contribute on a monthly basis, and you can cancel any time.

Help us make Canadian media better by joining Tyee Builders today.
We value: Our readers.
Our independence. Our region.
The power of real journalism.
Get our free newsletter
Sign Up
Culture
  |  
Housing

I Got Kicked Out of My Rental. Now What?

The search for a new home, where I’ll live alone, has me asking some hard questions about Vancouver and me.

Dorothy Woodend 7 Dec 2021 | TheTyee.ca

Dorothy Woodend is culture editor of The Tyee. Reach her here.

When I first moved to Vancouver in the summer of Expo 86, you could rent an apartment in the city’s West End for a few hundred dollars.

Some who’ve lived here for a long time can recount with a certain mistiness their first apartment: a two-bedroom, parquet-floored marvel with a clawfoot tub and leaded-glass French doors. All for the grand sum of $300 a month.

They share stories of ancient hippy landlords, who raised the rent by $15 and then recanted, saying, “If you can’t pay it, don’t worry about it for a few months, OK?” Giant old places that retained their charm despite the wear and tear of decades of renters.

These things don’t really exist anymore in this ruthless city of ours.

Over the years, as the prices began to rise, people got creative. I’ve lived in some pretty odd places — apartments no bigger than a ship’s cabin, renovated storefronts, co-ops; with roommates, with siblings, with a partner, with a kid, on my own. It’s a long list.

The last time I looked for an apartment was more than 10 years ago. My son Louis was in Grade 5. We searched everywhere in the immediate neighbourhood and couldn’t find a thing. Even a decade ago, “affordable” on the west side of town wasn’t happening, so we went east.

At the time, I’d never been much beyond Main Street and had only the vaguest idea where Renfrew was. Over by the PNE? But there was a suite, the bottom half of a Vancouver Special. It was big, cheap and right next to a school, so we took it. And there we stayed, but always with the notion that it was going to be temporary.

The couple who owned the house were elderly when we moved in. The years that Louis and I lived there were happy. At Christmas, we traded boxes of Purdy’s chocolates with the owners and accommodated each other’s quirks.

But the fact that they’d put the house up for sale was always on the horizon. Every time I talked to their son, he’d bring it up, until eventually the feeling of dread that it kicked off in my gut got worn out from overuse.

And then it finally happened. One morning there was real-estate sign on the front lawn, and a week later the house was sold. The new owners sent over the paperwork with an eviction date, and that was that.

582px version of DorothyWoodendHouseVancouverSpecialWatercolour.jpeg
Home, sweet, evicted from home. One day a ‘for sale’ sign just appeared. Illustration by Dorothy Woodend.

Eviction is something of a rite of passage in Vancouver. It’s happened to many people I know. As my hairdresser cheerfully informed me, “I just keep moving from renovicted house to renovicted house.”

When you’re younger and a bit more elastic, you can often bounce along with this kind of upheaval. But it gets harder as you get older.

“Don’t feel sorry for your dumb self. You knew this was coming,” I thought as I scanned the Craigslist rental ads. But a mournful void opened up in my stomach. I couldn’t help but feel that this situation was my fault. After all, I’ve made my own decisions in life.

But of course, there are bigger forces at work. Along with practically every other major urban centre, the price of living in Vancouver went sky high and then kept on rising. I think it’s somewhere in the vicinity of Pluto at the moment.

Although Vancouver is still the reigning diva of expense, the same thing is happening across the country. Even the famed cheapness of Montreal isn’t quite what it once was.

But all of the endless analysis about why this is doesn’t really amount to much when it comes down to having a place to live. It’s a practical issue, but it’s also a deeply emotional one. The desire to have a home is somewhere up there with the need for someone to love and work to care about. Fundamental.

I’d forgotten what a serious pain in the ass it is to look for a place. Poring over ads, schlepping it out in the pouring rain to cattle-call appointments with a whole whack of other folk, making nice with landlords, filling out paperwork. Paystubs and references no longer suffice, I’m afraid. Now you must also supply three months of bank statements.

All that effort, and often at the end of it you get a short message saying, “Sorry, the apartment is no longer available. Good luck!”

Actually, if you get a call, you’re lucky. Usually, it’s just dead silence.

582px version of DorothyWoodendSon.jpeg
The writer and her son in an East Vancouver alley near the home where they’d just started renting 10 years ago.

Rents and mortgage payments are almost equivalent now. So, do you fork over more than half your salary for rent every month, or do you rob a bank and try to buy something? That’s a whole other kettle of fish, by which I mean mortgages, not robbing banks, although the two can be mistaken for one another. Although I guess the joke is that the bank actually robs you. Ha ha... sob.

Sometimes people think ahead and plan for the future, and sometimes they get lucky and inherit money from a distant aunt in Norway. Many people get into the real estate market with help from their parents, but if you’re a single person of a certain age, with limited years left in your earning life, the options are not great. No matter how many expensive lattes or avocado toasts one skips, saving enough money for a down payment is still a bit of a feat.

So, the system is rigged against poor people. What else is new? Folks who had the money to buy a place in Vancouver when they were cheap as chips, goody for you. But don’t pat yourself on the back too hard. Smugness will get you smacked. By me.

If renting a place is complicated, then buying one is byzantine. The current inventory, meaning the number of places for sale, is at an all-time low. The lowest since they started keeping records of such things. Like anything, one learns the hard way what it means to try to buy something.

What your money can provide in Vancouver and environs is illuminating, to put it mildly. But that’s a whole other story, as yet with no ending, happy or otherwise, in sight.

So, the bigger question lingers. Why do I want to live here?

What keeps people in cities, after all? The most obvious answers are the practical things — work, school, services. Then there’s the other squishier stuff — family, friends, community, connection. All of these things can shift radically over time. Kids grow up and move away and work can be done remotely, at least part of the time. So why stay?

If you had asked me this question 20 years ago, I would’ve answered definitively: culture. But even that has changed. The pandemic may have exacerbated the shift to online offerings, but it was well on its way even before that. Access to galleries, museums and theatres is still important, but is it worth paying more money than you ever thought possible to simply exist here?

That’s the critical question.

In the meantime, the search for a home feels like it’s growing harsher and infinitely more competitive, like an enormous game of musical chairs. When the tune stops and everyone is white-knuckle glued to their seat, except for you, what is there left to do but walk away?  [Tyee]

Read more: Housing

Share this article

The Tyee is supported by readers like you

Join us and grow independent media in Canada

Facts matter. Get The Tyee's in-depth journalism delivered to your inbox for free

Tyee Commenting Guidelines

Comments that violate guidelines risk being deleted, and violations may result in a temporary or permanent user ban. Maintain the spirit of good conversation to stay in the discussion.
*Please note The Tyee is not a forum for spreading misinformation about COVID-19, denying its existence or minimizing its risk to public health.

Do:

  • Be thoughtful about how your words may affect the communities you are addressing. Language matters
  • Challenge arguments, not commenters
  • Flag trolls and guideline violations
  • Treat all with respect and curiosity, learn from differences of opinion
  • Verify facts, debunk rumours, point out logical fallacies
  • Add context and background
  • Note typos and reporting blind spots
  • Stay on topic

Do not:

  • Use sexist, classist, racist, homophobic or transphobic language
  • Ridicule, misgender, bully, threaten, name call, troll or wish harm on others
  • Personally attack authors or contributors
  • Spread misinformation or perpetuate conspiracies
  • Libel, defame or publish falsehoods
  • Attempt to guess other commenters’ real-life identities
  • Post links without providing context

LATEST STORIES

The Barometer

Tyee Poll: What Coverage Would You Like to See More of This Year?

Take this week's poll