Caught in the crisis: No immediate housing solutions for renovicted low income tenants


WATCH: The B.C. government has given the go ahead to nearly 5,000 units of affordable housing but that’s small comfort for a group of Esquimalt residents. Those units won’t be ready for at least two years, and these renters need more. Kori Sidaway has more.

George May has called this apartment home for five years.

He pays $777 a month for his one bedroom suite in this aging Esquimalt low rise, but that’s about to change.

“This place is about 50 years old and people are going for the big prices,” said May.

The run-down building has been sold to a new owner, and residents have been urged to take a $1,500 buyout to move out before February.

“There’s nowhere to go! The rents are all high, we’ve looked its $1,200 to $1,400 for everything,” said another tenant James Spencer.

“My income is so low I could be sleeping on the street or be at camp city right away,” said May.

And they’re not alone.

With a crisis this big, the province announced half a billion dollars in funding for affordable housing to be built over the next two to three years.

But for people like George and many others, they need housing now.

“I know if I sleep on the street I won’t make it before the night,” said May.

And most of the housing that’s currently being built, won’t be within reach of those with lower incomes.

“Because we don’t have protections in place to make sure that when the housing comes back online it’s at the same amount of rent. The people living here are not essentially going to be able to return,” said Doug King, executive director of Together Against Poverty Society.

And, after decades of no rental housing construction, most apartments in Greater Victoria are in need a facelift.

“Essentially 80 per cent of the purpose-built  rental stock was constructed before 1980, so it’s quite an old stock,” said CMHC Housing’s senior analyst Braden Batch.

Those many aging buildings are in need of major upgrades, leaving landlords struggling to find a solution.

“The balance here is we’d love to retain some of that old stock because certainly it’s the more affordable rental housing, but how do you do that when so much of it is reaching the end of its functional life?” said Landlord BC’s CEO David Hutniak.

It’s a question the township of Esquimalt’s mayor is trying to answer.

“We are working to create the new housing at those low income levels so that people can continue to stay in their community,” said Esquimalt Mayor Barbara Desjardins.

“But there is that bit of crunch and we’re all cognizant of it and we’re doing what we can.”

But for George, his options are running out.

His, and the future of so many who live on low income are uncertain over the next two to three years before public and private housing comes online.

With no immediate housing solutions in place, that pressure will likely fall onto the regions nonprofits.

Kori SidawayKori Sidaway

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