‘We can’t live in a tent’: Island residents facing threat of homelessness due to rental crisis

'We can't live in a tent': Island residents facing threat of homelessness due to rental crisis
WatchMany Vancouver Island homeowners are taking advantage of record breaking housing prices and selling their properties. Those include homes with rental suites which means tenants are often left scrambling to find a new place to live. As Kevin Charach reports, some renters in greater Victoria fear they may soon end up on the streets.

Bob and Lori Hardy have lived in their Langford rental suite for seven years.

The ground floor unit costs them $955 plus utilities per month, allows pets and has enough space for Bob’s oxygen tanks, tubing system and scooter. But with the recent sale of the home, they’re now searching for a new place to live.

“Anytime you find anything, there’s like four hundred people applying for it,” said Bob, a retired City of Saanich worker who lives with serious health issues.

They’re hoping to stay in Greater Victoria for family reasons but need a pet-friendly, budget-friendly, ground floor unit to support Bob’s medical needs — requirements haven’t made their narrow search any easier. They are also are open to looking outside of the Capital Region but say the story is still the same.

“We’re willing to move to Sooke, Duncan, but it’s out of our price range,” said Bob.

They’ve searched every day for two weeks and say they’ve barely received a response. The fear of homelessness is setting in.

“I’m worried,” said Lori, fighting back tears. “We can’t live in a tent. It’s not fun being sixty years old and thinking you’re going to be homeless. It’s scary.”

Over in neighboring Colwood, the young and working aren’t immune to the challenges of finding a home.

Jai and Samantha, who both asked that CHEK not disclose their last names for privacy reasons, were evicted months ago and have yet to find a place to rent within their budget.

So the pair have resorted to parking their vehicle in various locations including Esquimalt Lagoon. They say it’s been manageable for the summer, but with cold weather on the way and bylaw officers threatening fines, their patience is running out.

“Everything is so expensive right now, you’re reluctant to sign a one-year lease,” said Samantha, who lives with her partner Jai in a tent situated on top of their jeep.

Housing advocates say the rental crisis is only getting worse and that government needs to intervene.

“We want to see the Province implement vacancy control, which would limit a landlord’s ability to raise the price of rent up to market value when one tenant moves out and another tenant moves in,” said Antonia Mah, a tenant advocate with Together Against Poverty Society (TAPS).

LandlordBC agrees government can play a role but argues that more housing inventory should be the priority.

“It really does come down to creating more supply,” said Hunter Boucher, director of operations for LandlordBC. “That means making sure we have a city council that understands that industry and removes the barriers for people developing purpose-built rentals to create that housing type.”

Although the two agencies disagree on how to solve the current housing issue, both the tenant and landlord advocates agree the situation has reached a critical level.

“The term crisis is most certainly apt,” said Boucher, who adds that hard numbers are difficult to obtain based on the lack of data in the secondary rental market (homes with rental suites).

Meanwhile back at Esquimalt Lagoon, Jai and Samantha have resorted to sharing their story via social media and say they are pursuing a few leads. As for Lori and Bob, hope lingers as their move-out date is set for Nov. 1.

Lori and Bob Hardy are among many people in the Greater Victoria region who are struggling to find affordable housing. (CHEK News)

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Kevin CharachKevin Charach

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