Ladysmith seniors fear they could soon be homeless due to tight rental market

Ladysmith seniors fear they could soon be homeless due to tight rental market
WatchThe lack of affordable housing on Vancouver Island has a pair of Ladysmith seniors fearful they will soon become homeless. Their rental has sold and for the first time in years, they are facing the increasing prices and demand that has left so many out of the market.

For the past four years, Neil Basker and Joanne Schmidt have lived at an apartment in Ladysmith for the last four years.

But on Saturday, the couple, who have been married for 20 years, found themselves packing up their stuff.

“Everybody needs a home,” said 72-year-old  Neil Basker. “And everybody needs to know there’s somebody there waiting for them.”

Their longtime apartment just sold and Basker is now worried sick that he and his wife will end up homeless by the end of November if they cannot find a place.

“This thought of being homeless really bothers me,” said Basker.

The pair have spent months hunting for an apartment but still haven’t found one, despite having references and responding to online ads every single day.

One problem is Basker’s pension means their budget for rent is limited to $1,200 a month. Another problem is actually getting a viewing.

“Getting appointments to see places is virtually impossible,” said Basker.

“And that puts my whole soul and body, at risk,” adds Schmidt.

It also doesn’t help that rent, like many other municipalities in the province, has soared over the past decade, with the average rent in Ladysmith around $950, according to data available the Canadian Rental Housing Index’s website, which also shows that 57 per cent of seniors 65 and older living in Ladysmith are spending more than 30 per cent of their income on rent and utilities. Housing is generally considered affordable if a household spends less than 30 per cent of their before-tax income on rent and utilities.

Gord Fuller, chair of the Nanaimo 7-10 Club, which provides free breakfasts to the less fortunate, said the couple is one of many low-income seniors facing a tight rental market in the city, with hundreds applying for a single unit.

“We are seeing more and more people that are out on the streets that are older . . .  because there is no safety net,” said the former Nanaimo city councillor. “It is extremely sad.”

Although affordable seniors housing complexes have recently opened in Nanaimo and other developments that are geared towards seniors are planned in the city, Fuller said once COVID-19 is over, seniors will continue to struggle to find affordable housing.

“I feel for the seniors more than anybody else because even when COVID is over, the struggle for seniors is still there,” he said.

There may be some good news, however, on the horizon for Basker and Schmidt. A few days ago, they were able to view an apartment and are hoping they will be approved for it and will know in a few days if it will become their new home.

“I’ve got so much hope on that one place,” said Basker.

But until they actually get the keys to an apartment, the couple will keep packing and applying for any vacancies that they can afford from Crofton to Port Alberni. With a deadline to be out of their current rental, by the end of November.

Skye RyanSkye Ryan

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