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Housing

Sorry for Our Toddler’s Screams, Mr. and Mrs. Homeowner: Blame the Housing Crisis

Kids bring impossible choices when there is nowhere to live.

By Tamara MacNeil 4 Jul 2018 | TheTyee.ca

Tamara MacNeil attended the University of Victoria and afterward ran away to become a freelance writer. She’s the author of Salt and Iron (as Tam MacNeil), Sweet Nothings (as T. Neilson) and many other books, short stories and articles.

My son screamed to get out of bed at 11:30 last night, and then again at 4 a.m. When I tried to put him back to bed he screamed “no nap!” until I left frustrated and my husband, A, took over.

“Don’t give them their way,” the books warn parents of two-year-olds. “If you give in to a tantrum it makes things worse.”

So my son yelled off and on from 4 to 5 a.m. because daddy wouldn’t let him watch TV. Then at 6:30 we were back in Meltdown Town again because mommy had to work. The kid has a set of lungs on him. I got down the hallway and to the stairs and could still hear him screaming “mommy no work!”

We live in a building that doesn’t permit kids.

Weirdly, this is why we got the place.

Last year we were living in a 700-square-foot, one-bedroom apartment on the fourth floor of an old building. We’d been there since we came to Victoria back in 2000. I got my BA at the University of Victoria, and we both worked. We worked in the service industry, then I went to government and later became a freelancer.

Then A found his passion and went back to school for engineering. We always meant to get on the property ladder but never managed to get the money together so we rented.

One afternoon, A and I had a serious conversation. “I want a family,” I said. “And I don’t want a teenager at home when I’m 60.” And about a year later, along came Sir Screams-a-Lot.

That same year, our building was sold, and the place went downhill fast. The elevator broke down a lot, and four flights with a 25-pound infant and the groceries is no joke. Things started to be dumped in the parking lot. We heard the elevator issue was not going to be fixed. It was time to get out.

We looked for a new place. We applied to a few, but they were rented out before we had the chance to see them, or were too expensive, or were sketchy. At one place the previous tenant had had people coming in through the windows in the bedrooms. I asked the building manager if they would do something to improve security, since my kid would be sleeping alone in one of the said bedrooms. He said probably, but was fuzzy on specifics. Then we heard a woman had been murdered nearby, and her body dumped in the bushes up the hill.

We chased online ads, all of which seemed to be scams. Some “landlords” asked to meet in weird places, some for credit card details. Someone called A’s old workplace pretending to be a friend and asking for our address. We were getting desperate.

Then the company A had done his co-op at told him he’d have a job when he graduated. We knew what his starting salary would be, and when he’d start. We went looking to buy.

We went to two places. One was a foreclosure with a boot print on the wall, broken fixtures and a spot that our realtor said looked like an undisclosed water stain close to a window. The other was a sweet little place in an unhappy location.

We called the bank to see if they would lend. They would not. Even though we would be paying the same in mortgage payments that we were paying in rent, A was a student and I was a freelancer, and we were too big a risk.

The elevator was out for a week at a time. Someone propped the door to the apartment building open with a pebble — not enough to see, just enough to stop the door from latching. Someone was camping in the parking lot.

Then, out of the blue, a friend texted. She told me that a mutual friend was pregnant, and that she and her partner had bought a house.

Doesn’t she have a condo? I asked.

Yes, came the reply. But she needs a tenant.

And this is how we came to be living in a condo that does not allow under-18s. Our friend, the owner, couldn’t live there herself because of the strata rules, but she could rent to us, because of a loophole. She couldn’t live there with her baby, but we could with ours.

So we moved. Of course we did.

Random people ask me, sweetly, if we’re going to have another. I say no. They want to know why. But how do you explain that you could wind up homeless if your landlord sold your place, even though your husband is an engineer and you work at a university and freelance on the side? How do you explain that you’re constantly worried the neighbours are going to find a way to get rid of you? How do you say you spend $3k in rent and daycare each month before you’ve even put food on the table, and you’re one of the lucky ones? No, random sir or madam, we are not having another.

Which, no doubt, will give my neighbours a sense of profound relief.

Believe me when I say this, Mr. and Mrs. Homeowner: I don’t like it either. It would be wonderful to be able to say to Sir Screams-a-Lot, “It’s bedtime, you need to go back to sleep” and know he’s going to make a stink for 15 minutes but that’s fine. Toddlers are notoriously rotten sleepers, and as for loud tantrums at all hours, well, they don’t call it the Terrible Twos for nothing.

I hear the market is changing, and I hope that it’s true. But until then, well, sorry, neighbours. You’re stuck with us. We have nowhere else to go.  [Tyee]

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