News / Vancouver

Average rent for SRO unit with no bathroom rises to $687 a month: report

Residents saw the highest rent increase for SRO rooms in 2017, according to DTES housing group that has been tracking rents since 2009

The city ordered the Balmoral Hotel to be evacuated in June 2017 because of building safety concerns. It remains empty.

Jennifer Gauthier / For Metro

The city ordered the Balmoral Hotel to be evacuated in June 2017 because of building safety concerns. It remains empty.

The average rent of the lowest-cost housing in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside neighbourhood is now $687, leaving just $23 a month left over for people on welfare, say housing activists.
Single-room occupancy hotels, which are common in the low-income neighbourhood and are usually just one room with a shared bathroom, have provided Vancouver’s cheapest private housing for decades. But, the Carnegie Community Action Project warns in an annual report on SRO housing, rent rates for the rooms have been rapidly rising, while the total number of units is on the decline.
In 2009, privately-rented SRO rooms rented for $398, leaving $212 left over after paying rent, according to the report. Between 2016 and 2017, rents increased at the steepest rate — rising by $139 — since CCAP began compiling the report in 2008.

Factors behind the increase could include a recent welfare rate increase of $100, the general trend of steeply rising rents throughout Metro Vancouver, or landlords becoming aware that many low-income tenants are receiving rent supplements from social service agencies, according to the report authors.
CCAP’s report also lists what the group calls the “10 fastest gentrifying hotels,” with the Argyll Hotel on East Hastings Street and Abbott taking the top spot. The former SRO has been recently renovated and apartments now rent at $1,450 a month, according to the CCAP report.
Lenée Son, a member of CCAP, described gentrification in the neighbourhood, where many residents struggle with poverty, addiction and mental illness, as a “domino effect,” where new, higher income residents have moved in to the area and more expensive restaurants and shops have opened to cater to those new residents.
In 2014, the Vancouver city council passed a new plan for the Downtown Eastside, a new approach for the area that emphasized the concept of “social mix:” encouraging a mix of income levels, without displacing low-income residents. But a 2017 staff report warned that in the three years since the plan was passed, life expectancy had fallen, homelessness had risen, and gentrification was pushing the poor out of Chinatown and the Downtown Eastside.

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