Vancouver renters: Pushed out and unable to find a new home
Vancouver’s rising land values have led to an increase in evictions, and a tough search for renters looking for new homes
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Deborah Sexton has a warning for Metro Vancouver renters: “It can happen to anybody.”
“It” is homelessness. Sexton has been living in her car for the past year after being evicted from the three-bedroom house she had rented in North Vancouver for 34 years after the owner decided to sell the property.
The 60-year-old receives disability payments and works part time, but despite months of trying to look for a two-bedroom apartment she plans to share with a relative, she’s lost out at least five times to other renters.
“The competition is unbelievable,” Sexton said. “They say they’re having an open house and you show up 15 minutes early and there’s already 20 people there.”
Renters are being squeezed by skyrocketing land values, and those who are evicted are finding it difficult to bounce back and find new housing: Vancouver’s vacancy rate is currently just 0.6 per cent and a two bedroom now often rents for between $2,000 and $2,500 a month.
Chris Bell, a 33-year-old cook, recently went through his own eviction drama: he and many of his neighbours in a three-storey Mount Pleasant apartment building were given two-month eviction notices because the property owner intended to renovate each suite. Bell was given the option to move into a newly renovated suite in the same building, but the rent he shared with a roommate would have gone up by $500 per month.
With the help of a tenant advocate from First United Church, Bell appealed the eviction to B.C.’s Residential Tenancy Board, but ended up settling for an extra month of tenancy. Finding a new place was “awful.”
“I looked at something on East 6th and St. Catherines and it was bedbug central,” he said. “I looked at…a hundred year old building that had an exposed ceiling, and not in a good way.”
And several of the landlords Bell considered renting from wanted him to sign a fixed-term rental agreement, a type of tenancy that makes it easier to evict tenants and raise rents higher than B.C.’s current 2.9% yearly rent increase cap.
Luckily Bell was able to find a new place, a basement studio suite in Kitsilano, when his former roommate’s mom put him in touch with friends of hers.
“I got ‘mommed’ by my roommate’s mom,” he admitted.
In Metro Vancouver’s heated real estate market, tenant advocates say cases of tenants being pushed out through “renovictions” or fixed-term tenancies are rising as landlord seek higher-paying tenants. They say B.C.’s rent laws need to change to better protect renters, while the B.C. government counters current laws offer adequate protections.
Since losing her home, Sexton has met around 10 other people who are in a similar situation, many of them women.
“People say you don’t look homeless, and I say well yes I do, because I am,” she said.