A new report suggests Metro Vancouver’s affordability crisis is surging into the suburbs, hammering low-income families on the brink of homelessness.
The report, co-authored by the Union Gospel Mission (UGM) and a UBC professor, has found that vacancy rates outside the city of Vancouver have dramatically decreased.
“Rents are way up, vacancy is way down, the crisis is spreading way out, and homelessness is worse, especially for women, mothers and single families,” said UGM spokesperson Jeremy Hunka.
“We’ve seen this trend happening over a number of years, we’re really reaching kind of a boiling point,” said report author Penny Gurstein, with UBC’s School of Community and Regional Planning.
“Before you could go into other communities like Surrey and Burnaby and New Westminster and find potentially affordable housing.”
However, according to the report, even those once-affordable suburbs are now out of reach of many British Columbians.
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Surrey’s vacancy rate fell from 5.7 per cent in 2012 to near zero last year. Burnaby now sits at 0.6 per cent, while New Westminster is at 1.1 per cent, the report found. Across the region, the overall rate is 0.9 per cent.
For families seeking multi-bedroom housing at the low end of the market, those numbers get even worse.
There has also been a 32 per cent increase in the number of Metro Vancouver families on B.C.’s housing registry since 2014.
That was the situation Jackie Myerion and Jesse Kirkpatrick found themselves in. The couple and their seven and nine-year-old children were forced out of their Surrey basement suite with just one month’s notice this summer.
Despite Kirkpatrick stopping work to house hunt full time, the family was unable to find anywhere to live within their budget.
Instead, they found themselves living in a tent in Vancouver’s CRAB park.
“We looked at like three places a day and we were just waiting for callbacks and we didn’t receive one back. We had no choice but to pack up and put our stuff in storage,” Kirkpatrick said.
“The kids thought we were camping… It was pretty stressful on us, but the kids didn’t think anything was wrong at the time.”
The family has since found housing through the UGM, but Hunka said they serve as a frightening example of how close to the edge some families are.
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“It’s not as rare as we’d like to see. We don’t see it every day. Their situation is a bit more rare, but it’s not as rare as we want it to be,” he said.
“They were camping next to another family.”
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Hunka said based on the findings of the report, the UGM is now expanding its outreach efforts to the suburbs.
It is also urging voters to hold housing and homelessness at top of mind when they head to the polls on Oct. 20.
The group has created an online portal where it has collected the housing and homelessness platforms from every Metro Vancouver mayoral candidate, and is urging people to read up on their stances.
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