I grew up in poverty. My mother was a single mother of three kids with me being the eldest. We had just moved to a new city for the hope of a better life and gainful employment. We found a place we thought we could afford, but the place we moved into had cockroaches and they had to fumigate. Well, guess what? There wasn’t any compensation for the missed time in the apartment or for having to stay at a motel. The high school I attended gave out free meals at McDonalds once a month for always showing up to class. So I went to school diligently in the hopes of being able to get a free meal once a month. Luckily my mother had a job at the motel as a housekeeper, so she got a slight discount when we needed some place to crash for a bit while the place was being fumigated. Because finances were so tight, there was no ability to take time off work and school to go to court or to pay the fees required to undergo proceedings with the Landlord Tenancy Branch.
We found a different place to live. This time it was the upper floor of a single detached home. The landlord lived below. He was a police officer. This landlord would monitor absolutely everything we did. We couldn’t even have a private conversation without him knowing about it. He stole parts off of our furniture, which he denied of course. He knew what he could get away with and how to lie to police about it. When he evicted us he didn’t give us the opportunity to clean. He said he call the police and have us charged with trespassing so we would have to forgo our damage deposit.
The first place I moved into on my own after I graduated high school was affordable. Shortly after moving in, however, I found out that they had an infestation of mice. I told the landlord about it and their solution was “get a cat”. Well, I can barely afford to feed myself let alone a pet. I can’t take the time off work to complain about it. So I invested in glass jars to keep the mice out of my food and cleaned up mice droppings from the cutlery drawer every day.
Today I live in a place that is considered below market rent, but I still pay more than 30% of my income for it. The previous tenants were smokers and it smells highly of nicotine. The walls, ceiling, and fans are tarnished a nicotine yellow. When I asked if the place would be cleaned the answer was, “No, but here are some supplies if you want to clean it yourself.” and I was given inadequate supplies to get the place clean. I bought some cleaning supplies and spent three eight hour days cleaning. Again, I didn’t, and still don’t, have the time or funds to submit an application to the landlord tenancy branch. Another problem with the current place I’m residing is that repairs are done haphazardly. Water corroded the stairs to the entrance of our building, for example, and the landlord decided to pour concrete over it and make it “smooth” with a spade. Now there is a permanent tripping hazard in front the building and most of my neighbours are elderly.
That is a brief idea of what I’ve lived with my entire life in British Columbia. I did live briefly in China, teaching English, and the quality of life was so much better than here that I’m thinking of emigrating.
Thanks for your work to address the unfair rental rules that disproportionately affect those living in poverty. I am not living in poverty, but I work daily with many who are homeless or living in precarious situations, and often because of their vulnerability and lack of resources to help counter unscrupulous landlords, they are taken advantage of and their rights are abused or disregarded in many ways. However, even as a well-resourced, knowledgeable person, I too have my own rental horror story.
I rented a one bedroom suite in an old character house last year and signed a one-year lease. At the time of renting, my landlady put a term into the rental agreement that I was not familiar with, and unfortunately I did not do more research at the time to find out what it meant or whether I had to agree to it or not. I’ve since found out that “liquidated damages” is a rarely used term of tenancy that is meant to protect the landlord from financial losses in the event that a tenant breaks a lease and vacates and the landlord incurs costs in the process of having to re-rent the suite earlier than expected. My landlady took me to arbitration when I broke my lease for personal reasons unrelated to any conflict with her (we had no conflict until I told her I was ending my tenancy early). She barraged me with threatening and intimidating email messages demanding that I pay for professional cleaning of everything in the suite and landscaping of the courtyard before I left. These messages had attachments of official-looking forms from an organization called “Landlord BC”, an advocacy group for landlords which she belongs to. She presented it to me as though these were official forms that needed to be signed, but they are not. They are a way for the landlord to get the client to agree to additional terms outside of the tenancy agreement. I did not sign anything outside of the tenancy agreement, but she continued to insist that I was obligated to abide by the (very unreasonable) terms she had written onto these forms. After a couple of weeks of long-winded, frequent, and threatening messages, I told her I felt harassed and asked her to stop.
When I told her I would be moving out, she told me that the $600 liquidated damages were “due and payable” at the time that I gave my notice, which was not true as I found out from the Residential Tenancy Branch. She accused me, falsely, of causing damage to the suite and not cleaning and requested over $2200 in her application for dispute resolution, including $600 for liquidated damages. My understanding of the term now is that it is not to be used as a penalty for breaking a lease, but rather to cover the landlord’s costs to re-rent the suite. She admitted that she had no costs, beyond her time to show the suite (which was minimal – she showed the suite 3 times before finding another renter). Despite this, the arbitrator at our hearing decided in my landlady’s favour because of precedent (that landlords are allowed to ask for this in the event of an early end of tenancy and that half a month’s rent is considered a reasonable amount) regardless of her actual costs to re-rent. He dismissed her claims of damage because she had provided no proof. In the end, I was ordered to pay her the balance of $700 ($600 liquidated damages + $100 for the dispute resolution application fee, even though I had paid the same fee to apply to get my damage deposit back from her) and he dismissed my application to get my damage deposit back, which was $645 + the $100 application fee, even though she had provided no proof of damages (because there were no damages). His reason was that her claim was worth more than mine so that cancelled mine out, which didn’t make any sense to me. I had to wait six months for the arbitration hearing and take time off of work to be available for it. I found the arbitrator to be very rude and unwilling to hear either of us out. It was a thoroughly frustrating experience. I have since discovered (by talking with other former tenants of hers) that she has a pattern of harassing tenants, making false claims, and taking people to arbitration – and winning!
If I, as an educated, responsible, literate, well-resourced person, cannot rely on the system currently in place to recognize and address landlords who abuse their position for financial gain, what chance does anyone with less going for them than I have stand? No wonder we are in the middle of a homelessness crisis. There was no repercussion for her bad behaviour. In fact, it was rewarded and she was also allowed to (and did) raise the rent significantly when I departed.
I certainly hope that this government review of tenancy rules brings about some big changes. They are needed badly. Thanks for your advocacy and for this opportunity to share my story.
I’d like to share my rental horror story.
It starts with bedbugs. (Oh joy!)
In the spring of 2017, the basement suite that I was renting somehow acquired bedbugs. To this day my former roommate and I have no idea where they came from. Most people, apparently, never find out.
Our upstairs landlords followed the legal requirements for ridding the suite of the infestation, but shortly after it was discovered they decided that they no longer wanted renters. We were given 2 months notice to find new homes. We quickly discovered that rent had skyrocketed in Kelowna.
At this point I was 27, and I’d always lived with roommates. I really wanted my own space for once. So, I started looking for a bachelor suite. I knew I wouldn’t be able to afford a one-bedroom in my hometown, so I didn’t expect to find one. What I also did not expect was that it would be so hard to find even a bachelor suite that I, as a new university graduate, could afford. Apparently most of the city’s studio suites were being used as vacation rentals. (On a rental mapping website, when searching long-term rentals in the area, approximately 10 pins showed up. When searching short-term rentals, the map was covered in red dots. Clearly the places I could otherwise have been applying to were largely being rented through airbnb.)
My former roommate and I commiserated about this situation a good deal. She was also having trouble finding somewhere to go. It was then that a thought occurred to me. This seemed like a news story! I reached out to local reporters and, sure enough, they thought so too. A story was written about the situation in a local online newspaper. Thinking strategically, I then went around and left a comment from my Facebook account everywhere the story had been posted online. I was hoping that a landlord who thought I looked like a good renter for their bachelor suite would contact me. I was delighted when this happened for both me and my roommate. She moved into a one-bedroom owned by a family friend (which was generously rented to her at below market value, since she otherwise could not have taken it), and I moved into the place that was offered to me by the landlord who reached out. I didn’t know him at the time, but the place was what I was looking for.
Unfortunately, when I transferred my home business license to my new home (I freelance in the media industry), it triggered a city inspection. I was told that the inspector just needed to ensure the place was up to code, but as soon as he came in he informed me that, in fact, he had suspected it was an illegal suite and now that he had seen it to confirm, the stove would have to be removed or I would have to move out. The area wasn’t zoned for secondary suites because the lots were considered too small. My landlords ignored the letters from the city at first, hoping the problem would go away, but it did not. The stove was pulled out less than 6 months after I had moved in, and now I cook with a hot plate and a toaster oven. For someone with specific dietary requirements due to food sensitivities (which, as we all know, are extremely common these days), this makes taking care of my health more difficult than it ought to be.
Having gone through all of this and knowing that if and when I have to move again I will likely face an even tougher rental market, I am incredibly unimpressed by BC’s current housing regulations. It is a failure on the part of the government that an educated young worker like myself should have to struggle in this way just to live under a roof. I recently also heard that a friend of mine living in Kelowna had the city come down on her for having a stove in her aging parents’ in-law suite too, and her stove was also taken out. Her parents can no longer cook for themselves, and I can’t imagine what a burden this has placed on the family relations within their household.
Things absolutely need to change. Rental increases need to be tied to the unit, not the tenant, and the enormous gap that has emerged between rental costs and workers’ incomes needs to be rectified. In the meantime, laws regarding suites and in-law suites need updating. I don’t know the stats, but I am living them. The current situation is absolutely untenable.
I am writing because today, as I was volunteering at the Food Bank in Parksville, I had 2 clients who were single and both had 2 girls under 10 who are living out of their vehicles. Neither one can find affordable rental housing! I am appalled that these woman are reduced to homelessness with children on the Oceanside area where one woman told me her landlord is now renting her former home for $1,500 a week, what she was paying for a month. This happened because she told me, the Provincial Govt exempted landlords in this area from laws on short term rentals.
I wish there were something, anything I could do to help these victims of gentrification and Air B&B, but all I could do was listen and try to give her positive feedback and load them up with food from the food bank! Sad, really sad that this generation of poor and working poor are suffering needlessly because of bad legislation and greedy landlords.
Please help these woman and children. If anyone deserves it, it’s them!
I can’t afford to rent a house on my own I share Rent with an ex-boyfriend, because I can’t afford to rent with my single mom income. Stuck in a uncomfortable situation.
My name is D and I am 57 years of age and receive provincial disability benefit. My roommate B is 83 this years and receives OAP, CPP, and a small Superannuation from his time working for the CRA. Our rent is $1428.00 at this time for a one bedroom in the West End. Both of us have health issues, his being more serious, heart issues as he has had 3 operations in the last 12 years.
My contribution to the rent is $700.00 a month which includes utilities and B picks up the rest, bless him for this. The provincial government only provides me $375.00 a month for shelter, so I have no faith in them to change anything as they can’t see this amount is pathetic in this overly priced WORLD CLASS CITY. I guess my point is this, we should have a rental model like Austria where people pay no more than 30% of their income towards rent and this is the law of the land in Austria, smart people there. We have very little in way of extra money at the end of each month for anything and B is always reaching out to his sister when an emergency pops up, very sad for him. If B passed away I would be on the street as I can’t afford as a disabled person a roof over my head with the pittance I receive from Victoria, why this abuse is able to continue is beyond me. I say ABUSE for it is pure and simple, neglect and lots of talk and then doing very little to change anything in the way with substance. Human Rights Tribunal does not care to change these situations nor the courts and the media ignores us and favors animals and their plights over the people. Please feel free to share any part of this story of horror as in the end the only avenue for me is suicide, if I lose my best friend and one of the kindest people I have ever known!
I have been kicked out of my marina as i am a boat dweller due to Min of social development not funding me adequately on PWD assistance. Now I have no water source, no power and not enough infrastructure in my boat to maintain the operation of a fridge. I wrote the minister he had a nice worker call me but in the end the only solution is for the ministry to raise the rate for disability assistance. Previous government changes to the BC welfare act no longer has emergency funds available to cover power increases, rent increases or the basic cost of living generally which has increased in the past two years substantially. There is no crisis grants anymore other than a token 20.00. This is a huge problem which only can end badly, but without funds to rent rental reform in BC for a huge part of the population on PWD assistance will make little difference.
I do hope it helps many low to middle income people but it will make no difference to people on disability.
I moved into my current resistance in May 2017. My rent is $1800.00 per month. I feel like I have been completely taken advantage of.
They told me that the oil tank refill only cost $300, and also told me that the last tenant cranked the heat and it didn’t cost them extra. 6 months later, it gets refilled, and my landlords get a bill for $1200.00, I’m on disability, have 2 older kids, and one newborn baby. They are now threatening to evict me if i don’t pay it in full. Which i just can’t.. How do you squeeze blood from a stone??
I feel like I have been deceived.
Landlords need to stop abusing tenants and getting away with it.
I lived in Vancouver for 13 years happily but was forced to leave my rental after a flood and could not find new housing. Here is my story.
Our house, what I described as to my husband as “Heaven on Trout”, was a 1970s built bungalow on the edge of John Hendry Park (Trout Lake) in East Vancouver, with a large bay window overlooking the poplars that sway in the summer breezes and the winter storms. It was a dream rental. In order to find it I had spent a month walking around the neighbourhood, knocking door-to-door looking for vacancies. In my womb I carried my daughter, only a tiny fetus, and there was no amount of walking or knocking that would be too much to find the perfect home to give birth to her and raise her. When I walked past “Heaven on Trout” I noticed that the house was empty, so I walked to the door, peeped in the windows and knew in that moment it had to be mine. I rummaged through the mail to find names and addresses of previous tenants that I failed to track down, so I resorted to knocking on the neighbhours door. A neighbour had the owners number, so I called him on the spot and said “I want to rent your house. Can we meet?” He asked, “How did you know it was for rent?” “I’m friends with…” I covered the phone to ask the name of the neighbhour, Shirley, “Shirley gave me your number, she says the house in empty.” I met the owner, a young Chinese restaurateur who had inherited the responsibility of caretaking the place for his parents. The rent was expensive for us at $1,500/month, having lived in a 2-bedroom apartment in East Van for $1,000/month, but we negotiated that I would manage the basement suite in exchange for collecting every third month’s rent. It was agreed and we moved in with no contract, just a handshake.
After a year we got a roommate brining our rent down to $1,000/mnth, plus the income from the basement suite. It was a lot of work, managing the basement and sharing our 1,000 square foot space with a roommate, but we made it work and our rent worked out to be $666.70/month. On our single income this allowed me to be a student and a stay-at-home mom to my daughter who was born in front of the old fireplace ablaze on a cold January morning. Everyone said that I was lucky, but I would quickly explain the efforts that I had to make to keep living cheap: finding tenants, dealing with complaints, fixing toilets and furnaces, cleaning up after tenants who do not respectfully move-out, living with another adult with their needs, desires and habits But that was the sacrifice I made to be able to stay at home with my kid. Around the time we got a roommate, we also decided to buy land on the Sunshine Coast. My husband wanted to own something, to have a place we could dream of building a house one day, a place of our own. So my father sold us half his property and we worked out a private mortgage with him where would pay $600/month until the debt was paid off. This meant our housing budget was now $1,266.70/month, about what our friends were paying for their East Van apartments in 2012.
In December 2015 I was eight-months pregnant with my second child. I got a phone call from my landlord: “You can’t be there anymore, it’s not safe. You should move.”
When the water started to pour in the month previous I knew it was the end. The house was old, it had not been maintained, the water always coming up to the door of the basement in heavy rain and annual drain flushes being organized, the roof noticeably far beyond repair, always the smell of damp below ground and a cellar in the back we called the “murder room” which was painted red and often had a puddle of water forming on the floor.
Our two families stayed up late at night pumping the floodwater from the low points of the house to the drain, but it was to no avail. It kept pouring in threatening to breach the subfloor and destroy all the contents of the suite. I was in denial and hired a remediation company to cost out the repairs but the job was too major for us to stay. So when my landlord stated the obvious, I said “Of course, we’ll start looking for another place right away.” I hung up the phone and began to cry.
I set out to find a new perfect home, but this time in my womb I was not carrying a tiny fetus, but was nearly ready to give birth to a fully developed baby, our second daughter. There was no time for walking, for knocking on doors and rummaging through strangers mail. This time I was using craigslist, kajiji and word-of-mouth. This time, there wasn’t a variety of multi-room rentals in East Vancouver ranging from $1,200-$1,500 a month. In fact, the report put out by the Canadian Housing and Mortgage Corporation at the time suggested the vacancy rate was near zero. Now the new bottom price for two bedrooms was lingering around $2,000/month, especially those above ground. We found one place advertised at $1,100/month, a whole house set to be demolished in a 6-months and we thought, OK, that buys us time. My husband called and the landlord said “I have to tell you, it’s a real shit hole.” We found three separate newly renovated 2 bedrooms in East Van, all around 650-800 sq feet for $2,400/month but when I called to ask to see the place, each turned me away saying “It’s not suitable for a family.” Then we found another teardown and thought it sounded promising. They were asking for $1,950/month, which is steep for us, but hey, it was $50 below that $2,000 mark. When we walked in we could smell the mold, worse than our underwater basement suite and there were large dark circles of rot in the wood paneling on the walls. When we opened the door to the “sunroom” we could see it was so black with mold and rot that the floor had collapsed and the smell was horrendous. The owner explained: “We just won’t include that room.” Then he remarked, “Maybe this place isn’t good for children?” I replied, “This isn’t good for humans and no one should be living here!!!”
My husband and I walked to our car in silence, sat down and stared ahead at a bleak horizon. “We can’t live in Vancouver,” I said. He replied, “No. I guess we’re moving to the Sunshine Coast.” And that was it. The next day we rented a four bedroom with an ocean view and huge yard for $1,100/month in the town of Powell River where we own our land.
We moved and I gave birth to my second daughter beside a woodstove with a view of the forest. We thought we had found shelter, but with us traveled a tide of others leaving Vancouver and the rental market reached zero vacancy in Powell River too! After 6-months of newborn bliss, my husband commuting to Vancouver for work, we were given notice that the house had sold. We started to look for rentals in Powell River but the prices had gone up 50% in just 6 months! We would have to pay the same price as our apartment in Vancouver for a place in Powell River, but a place where there are no jobs to support the rental prices.
So we took a bold move. We decided to buy a yurt and put it on our property in Powell River which had water and sewer services but no house. The yurt would provide immediate shelter while we worked on our long-term plan to build a house.
And here we are today, two and half years later. We still live in our yurt and building a house seems an impossible feat with the price of development. The city of Powell River does not allow modular housing, tiny houses or other more affordable housing options. So once again we are stuck. We are working class people and there are no solutions to our housing situation.
Please please please consider:
Please ask them if it is right to ask anyone to choose now between what gives you
a. Your Reason to Live ie Keeps Your Will to Live ALIVE and strong: The presence and companionship of Your Pet
b. Your Ability to Live
Live inside, keep your job, get access to food, drink, use of the Public Washrooms found usually in food and drink places where Pets are not Allowed, use of Publuc Transit/Transportation ie Charter Section 6 Mobility but die the agonizing and slow way from social isolation and loneliness having no companion to keep you company or to do life with
Social isolation and loneliness has become epidemic in Canada, the USA and Theresa May has hired a Minister of Loneliness to help those in her country because it is as harmful to People as smoking, obesity and alcohol for cutting life short.
People should not be asked do you want your Pet or to Live inside in order to die of social isolation and loneliness later.
After renting a house for 5 years, the owners gave notice that they were selling – house prices in Abbotsford were soaring and rentals were $300 to over $1000 increased and lines were 20 long waiting to be considered as tenants. There was no where to go in the town in which we were raised, had extended family and jobs. After the 2 month notice time we still couldn’t find anything and were threatened with bailiffs – our daughter was 20 months old and my son was 15. We were supposed to get one month free rent but instead they extended our time for a month so now we had to find that money as well. IF it wasn’t for my mother who took out RRSP’s so we could have a downpayment for a mobile home, we would have been on the street with a baby. She was penalized by having to pay over $13000 in taxes because she is still working and was taking money out of the RRSP to help her family. We had to move to a trailer park in Deroche BC which is half an hour or more from Abbotsford and often an hour and a half from my worksites. Our doctors were difficult to access and our little daughter has health issues. The home owners never ever sold the house they just re-rented it to other people for almost double the rent we had been paying. I had done several improvements and still they would not give me back the full amount of the deposit saying there was a mark on the floor and other small things which should have been put down to normal wear and tear. Now we live in a trailer park far out from friends and family and amenities. My partner did not have a driving licence so had to quit her job because there is no bus service in the area. It has been an extremely stressful situation and many friends have had to move back in with parents or move totally out of the area. There was no support from anyone other than my mother – the MLA had no answer, the city had no answer and there was no where to turn. The time for notice was way too short given the housing shortages and the idea that people who help children in crisis situations are penalized by taxation is unbelievable. IF nothing else, at least give parents a tax break.
Seniors in West End who moved there to retire now can’t afford the Rents! Having to move out with not much less expensive rents any where in B.C. This is totally sick when one bedroom in West End has gone up to $2025. Often one small locker is $25 per month & parking is $75 monthly! Government needs to step in before losing younger couples as well! Its a total mess! Please do something besides talking!
One year ago this July we left our rental and moved into a partially converted school bus, we thought we could find a place to park it so we could save up some money and find a way out of living in poverty. We didn’t know it had gotten so bad, we wish we had just kept our rental.
We left Victoria and went to the Campbell River area and stayed in a generous friend’s driveway for awhile until they had to move because the landlord wanted his house back. That displaced 4 people and we could not find a rental with Campbell River / Comox Valley all together… landlords are flooded with 100’s of emails and 4 younger people with 2 dogs and an rv to park are not your ideal candidates. November came and we were without a place and mental health issues got severe… we got onto income assistance to get us through winter and as a couple you get $570 for rent… what can any single person even rent for $570 right now (assistance rates haven’t been increased since the 90’s). After countless failed attempts of finding a rental to share, contacting RV parks (non of which would take us due to the age of our rig, the fact that it isn’t a standard RV or because we have two dogs), hours posting online trying to find a parking spot on private property with no luck, a friend knew a lady who knew a lady who provided us a parking spot for winter that gave us access to a space heater and washroom. Mental health was severe as not having stable housing effects your mind and body, depression and anxiety ran high as we tried to keep it together. Winter came and left and April 1st we were out again on the road, not without much perseverance to find a new spot to park or a pet friendly rental all winter with no luck. Online ads, social media, posters, word of mouth… nothing.
Since April we have been shuffling from rest stops to parking lots to campgrounds (all affordable federal and provincial campgrounds have 14 day max stays per year on Vancouver Island regardless if the spot will then be empty). We had to leave the CV after months with no luck, left work there to come to Victoria for new work and still cannot find anywhere to park and live let alone a rental.
The rental prices are sky high and having dogs removes 95% of what is even available and out of that maybe 2% of pet friendly will accept more than just a ‘small dog’ and with that the pet deposits are huge. The lack of housing stability for a year has severely affected our mental and physical health daily and we keep fighting.
Having no power, no privacy, no refrigeration, no washroom, no running water, no feeling of safety, constantly living in a state of stress and anxiety that you will get harassed by authority for being homeless. It’s exhausting, we need change now. I know personally, met or heard of so many people affected by the housing crisis and the very broken system.
We don’t want to leave our art and music community, our friends, our work, our home… living on the coast isn’t just for the wealthy. To make housing inaccessible pushes out some of the most important community members… the ones who care about creating community.
To anyone reading who is also affected by the housing crisis… know you are a warrior even when you feel defeated and broken down. This isn’t an easy fight.
Update: Settling out of desperation = lost time, lost money and a toxic environment… still homeless
It is sad that the housing crisis has gotten so bad that returning to homelessness is actually the healthier and safer option than an affordable, pet friendly house. We thought we found a place to rent, we knew it wasn’t perfect but we were desperate and needing something, but taking it out of desperation only caused more grief in the end. We found it right before the last week of June and took it for July 1st. It was rural and there was a lot of garbage inside and outside which was suppose to be gone by move in, we arrived move in day to find the items in the house we asked to be removed were still there, the kitchen still had food, some rotted in the cupboards and all cupboards and drawers were covered in rat droppings. Four of us spent approx. 40 hours combined over the entire long weekend cleaning the house to bring it closer to a liveable condition before we moved our own belongings in. No one came to discuss the state of the house on July 1st, no one came to ask for rent. July 2nd the owner showed up and we discussed how we had to do so much cleaning, specifically the kitchen and he said we would negotiate and to write it all down including the fact that the key for the front door was missing and we had to go buy our own new locks for any doors we wanted to lock. July 3rd we got an illegal eviction text message from the ‘manager’ who them refused to even discuss the situation… when I finally got the owner on the phone the first thing he said was that he was trying to get in the house and we had locked the door…… He was trying to come into the house without even knocking because someone was home which is how the doors were locked, then he proceeded to lie and blame me for wanting to me, that was the last red flag, though legally we didn’t have to leave and we could of fought it, we left. The situation was very toxic and causing aggravation through fighting their illegal actions would have put us in an extremely unsafe situation. So we left a very unsafe, unhealthy situation both mentally and physically and it is truly sad that we are at a place where being homeless is a healthier, safer option than taking a home that was affordable. Safe, healthy housing is a basic human right – NOT a privilege – We live in a first world country
I am a single mother of two on a permanent disability with the Ministry of Social Development.
For 10 years, until the spring of 2017, we had been renting a beautiful home, in the Hastings Sunrise neighbourhood in Vancouver. The house was sold due to our elderly landlady’s needs for more accessible housing. Originally the buyers agreed to let us stay on as tenants for the foreseeable future. After only one year, the new owners raised our rent the maximum percentage at Christmas time. Then, at the end of February, we were given the two months to end tenancy eviction notice, for landlords use of property. We later found out that our suite was immediately renovated and re-rented. They had also bought the house across the street by then. To add insult to injury, they withheld our damage deposit for removal of shelving that had been built into the basement walls, which existed long before we ever moved in.
We, myself and my two children, who are now 11 and 13, only had two months to try to find a new home. Needless to say, this was not enough time to have my applications with BC Housing processed. I am currently still on the wait list for anything.
We were forced to prepare to move by the end of April 2017, with the possibility of nowhere to go. We faced putting our belongings in storage, and staying on friends’ floors in hopes of finishing our 7th school year at Windsor House School in Vancouver. With the kids deeply embedded in Vancouver with school, extra curricular activities, their friends, their father and grandmother, our situation was extremely overwhelming.
We could not find any affordable housing in Vancouver, and last summer we took an unaffordable rental in Cumberland on Vancouver Island, leaving life as we knew it behind, giving up our support network, other family members, and community.
The biggest stress about not being in Vancouver is that my youngest child, who has to regularly attend BC Children’s Hospital for monitoring of a severe endocrine deficiency, is not able to do so. We are having a very, very hard time making ends meet, let alone pay for vehicle and ferry travel to the city for the kids to have the proper medical, social, and family supports they need and deserve.
It was so traumatic to have to leave everything as we knew it one year ago. Now our rental house in Cumberland has been sold, raising the stresses all over again. Twice in one year we facing the uncertainty of where we will be living. We presently have all of our belongings in storage and are staying on friends floors until we can secure another home. We are now a homeless family of 3, ostracized from a community that we forged with our own 2 hands.
I have applied to countless co-ops and subsidized rentals, and my social network and family are also searching, talking to everyone possible about finding a rental for us. I have also written to our MLA Hon. Shane Simpson in hopes of expediting our BC Housing process due to the urgency of our needs. So far, not one person has responded from BC Housing, or the co-ops.
We have been deeply involved with community in East Van for nearly 20 years. The irony of me coming from the street, then getting off the street working with youth poverty and harm reduction organizations such as Street Youth Job Action, Vancouver Youth Voices and Dusk to Dawn, and now having teens of my own and being homeless, is absolutely mind blowing.
We spent many happy and healthy years at our long term home where the kids grew up in Hastings Sunrise. We were deeply immersed in the arts and music communities. From Windsor House School, The Red Gate Arts Society and The Purple Thistle. We need to be back with our family and supports, we deserve to be living happy and fruitful with the community and people who love us.
We need help to find a safe, clean, stable environment as soon as possible. We are truly a tragic example of what the BC housing crisis is doing to individuals and families.
Thank you for reading my story and opening a forum for families like ours to share.