Rental market crisis taking root in B.C.

MLA Report: Andrew Weaver finds few units students can afford in Oak Bay - Gordon Head

When I analyzed the rental market in my riding of Oak Bay and Gordon Head, in the Greater Victoria area, I wasn’t surprised by how bad it has gotten.

I know the rental availability rate is at 0.6 per cent in Victoria, I have spoken to residents desperately trying to find an affordable home, I have watched skyrocketing housing prices drag the rental market with them, I have heard about homeless UVic and Camosun students sleeping in cars. I wasn’t surprised as I looked through the rental listings on Craigslist, but I was very angry.

For several years now I have been raising housing issues in the legislature. The government has responded dismissively, refusing to acknowledge the housing crisis that loomed before us.

Now, fresh into an election year, protecting the dream of homeownership has apparently become their motto. They are throwing hastily put together, Vancouver-centric band-aid policies at a housing emergency that is reverberating through the entire province.

The B.C. government has failed to protect a fundamental right for British Columbians, and with the start of the school year fast approaching I am getting increasingly concerned about where the university and college students in our riding are going to live. The University of Victoria alone enrols over 21,000 students. Many UVic and Camosun students will live in residence or with family – UVic has about 2,300 residence beds and 180 family housing units but many others will need to find somewhere to rent for the year.

On Aug. 9 my office went through every Oak Bay and Gordon Head rental listing on Craigslist. There were only 106 and they ranged from $700 per month for a one-bedroom basement suite to $10,000 for a six-bedroom house.

Of the 106 listings, 29 fit my vaguely affordable cutoff of less than $1,000 monthly per person. Most of  them were multiple bedroom suites that would have to be split between roommates.

The $2,700 three-bedroom unit, for example, could be shared at $900 per occupant. Not exactly cheap for a student without an income, but more attainable than the $1,500 being charged for a 450-square-foot basement suite. With so few listings, though, I do worry that student renters will be chosen last when bidding against professionals or families. I had a staff member contact a few of the listings that I thought would be suitable for roommates to ask if they would consider renting to a group of students and none replied.

For individuals or couples hoping to find a one-bedroom suite for under $1,000 in my riding, on the day I checked there were seven listed. Some listings welcomed higher bids and many apologized for not being able to respond to every inquiry, citing an overwhelming number of applications. But frustrations with the rental market should not be deflected onto landlords, they too are trying to manage costs in an unhinged housing market.

Frustration, anger and outrage about housing in B.C. needs to land squarely with the B.C. government for actively neglecting this issue until it became a crisis.

As Frances Bula wrote in The Globe and Mail, the housing market has long treated renters like second-class citizens and the current housing shortage is further excluding people who are young, non-white, have mental health issues, unemployed, recent immigrants, poor, disabled or have pets. Our government needs to move beyond their dream of homeownership talking point. There is a rental market crisis in British Columbia that is in desperate need of attention. We need policies that work to get people into safe, affordable homes – like those I have repeatedly outlined for the government – and we need it to start now so that come September students won’t be left sleeping on library benches.

Andrew Weaver is the MLA for Oak Bay – Gordon Head.

 

Just Posted

‘More animals could have a chance:’ Victoria Humane Society in desperate need of a home

Animal rescue currently has 163 animals in foster and volunteer homes

Free-B Film Festival celebrates 20th anniversary

Head to Victoria’s Beacon Hill Park to see some family favourites on the big screen

Central Saanich accused of not following Climate Emergency declaration with urgent action

Motion to research climate response options and costs rejected then rescheduled in tense meeting

Join North Saanich invasives removal and experience three key benefits

Friends of North Saanich Parks says July 27 clear-up will be rewarding as well as green

Esquimalt gives six-storey rental complex the green light

A new apartment building is set to go up on Admirals Road

Rich the Vegan scoots across Canada for the animals

Rich Adams is riding his push scooter across Canada to bring awareness to the dog meat trade in Asia

Vancouver Island teens missing after vehicle found ablaze near Dease Lake, BC

RCMP say a body discovered nearby not one of the missing teens

A year later, ceremony commemorates victims of the Danforth shooting

It’s the one-year anniversary of when a man opened fire along the bustling street before shooting and killing himself

Japanese Canadians call on B.C. to go beyond mere apology for historic racism

The federal government apologized in 1988 for its racism against ‘enemy aliens’

B.C. VIEWS: NDP pushes ahead with Crown forest redistribution

This isn’t the time for a radical Indigenous rights agenda

Two dead in two-vehicle crash between Revelstoke and Golden

RCMP are investigating the cause of the crash

Ottawa fights planned class action against RCMP for bullying, intimidation

The current case is more general, applying to employees, including men, who worked for the RCMP

Alberta judge denies B.C.’s bid to block ‘Turn Off the Taps’ bill

He said the proper venue for the disagreement is Federal Court

Most Read