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'I Go to Bed in Tears': Lower Mainland Renter Rage

Website commenters share tales of woes over lack of affordable digs.

Dermod Travis 17 Jun 2016TheTyee.ca

Dermod Travis is the executive director of IntegrityBC.

With so much of the attention focused on Victoria's tent city and Vancouver's skyrocketing home prices in the housing debate, one group is left hollering, "Hey, what about us?"

Last Sunday, the Province newspaper published "Squeezed out: Renters losing homes as Lower Mainland owners cash in on hot market."

Good article. What really hit home, though, were the comments posted to various social media sites.

Often the most eloquent on any given issue are those most affected by it. Here are some of their posts juxtaposed with the harsh realities they're facing.

"The Lower Mainland is now full of decent people living on cots in furnace rooms, in tiny fire traps, in partitioned laundry rooms in monster houses. Strangers are being forced to share bedrooms."

According to a January report by RentSeeker.ca, the average rental price for a one-bedroom apartment in Vancouver was $1,079. A 560-square-foot apartment at that, utilities not included.

In Winnipeg a similar apartment went for $813, a difference of $3,192 per year.

From someone on disability benefits: "You can't rent an apartment for $900 in B.C. let alone live off that, being that you are also forbidden to earn anything beyond your $906 disability cheque."

In Vancouver's Downtown Eastside a 100-square-foot room rents for $560 a month, shared bath, intermittent heating and elevator service.

From a letter-to-the-editor in the Abbotsford News: "I'm a 45-year-old single mom of four children... Our landlord has sold the place we currently live and we need to move by June 30.

"I receive $700 for shelter and $652 for bills, food, gas and everything else per month from provincial disability... We are a kind, polite, honest, clean family with a small dog, just wanting a very long-term place to live. So why is it so hard to find a suitable place to live right now?

"I go to bed in tears... The closer the time gets the more I think, 'We are going to be homeless come Canada Day.'"

The average rent for a pet-friendly, three-bedroom apartment in Surrey is $2,250 (WalkScore).

From a single mother of four: "This is truly affecting people like myself who make a decent enough income but still at the low end on middle class scale. And because of my income I don't qualify for help... I don't make enough to pay egregious rents and still pay my bills and feed my kids."

Last August, RentSeeker pegged the average monthly rent for a three-bedroom apartment in Coquitlam at $1,826. That's $21,912 per year.

"We will soon have no affordable housing in this area for doctors not to mention the new fireman or the new policeman who will have to travel from the valley to work in Vancouver."

A 2015 Vancity study on housing affordability found that by 2020, the salaries for 82 of 88 in-demand jobs will be insufficient to buy a single-family home in Metro Vancouver, even assuming dual-income households.

"Last time I went to rent a home there were over 45 families in line to see the home all at the same time."

In 2001, there were 296,000 rental units in the Lower Mainland. In 2011, there were 307,555, an increase of four per cent. The number of owned units rose by 26 per cent.

'I will not go homeless quietly'

This isn't limited to the Lower Mainland or Victoria.

From the Alaska Highway News in 2015: "Sara Duncan and her husband recently found a two-bedroom apartment in Fort St. John, but it wasn't easy.

"In North Vancouver, Duncan said she paid $800 for a 1,300-square-foot two bedroom with an ocean view. Now she pays $1,450 for an 800-square-foot two bedroom."

"Our politicians are snide, cruel and out of touch with reality on a level that boggles the mind."

Housing Minister Rich Coleman has said of critics: "I guess some people just have to get up and whine every day."

Two more. No juxtapositions necessary.

"It doesn't matter, I'm moving in with my parents, at 43 years of age. HOW pathetic!"

"I will not go homeless quietly and neither should you."  [Tyee]

Read more: BC Politics, Housing

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