“After a decade of slow or no growth and a vacancy rate below one per cent, the housing market may finally be easing up for renters, who make up more than half the population of Vancouver.” –Vancouver Sun
Year-end statistics for 2012 show that 1,021 new rental units were approved in 2012, more than three times that of 2010 and 2011. Zero rental units were approved in 2008 and 2009. According to Mayor Gregor Robertson these new stats show that Vancouver is leading the way when it comes to creating new rental housing. Robertson emphasizes the importance of new rentals in a city where, “over 52 % of the our households rent and much of our rental stock is aging and in need of repair.”
New rental housing sounds exciting. I can hardly imagine living in a place with level walls, floors without cracks wide enough to swallow a small child, and the standard of construction being up to code. Holla!
But are these new places suited for my growing family? Is the cost of rent affordable on one income? The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation states that one-bedroom apartments make up more than half of the privately initiated purpose-built rental stock in British Columbia. We tried co-sleeping with our kids and it was more like co-staying-up-all-night. For our sanity, multiple bedrooms is mandatory: two at least. We’ve converted our sunroom into a third bedroom until our boys can share a room. Guests always peer inside it and say, “Wow! It is just a room with a bed.” Yup, and the air is real fresh.
The new rental developments don’t appear to provide family housing and it’s not just families that are being squeezed out of the rental market in Vancouver. Jean Swanson with the Carnegie Community Action project related to News 1130 that the new rentals don’t help people on pensions or welfare. “The people who are the poorest can’t afford those apartments. For example, a single person on welfare gets $610 a month in total for everything. So probably the rents in these new places are more than $610 altogether, probably $900 or $1000.” Well, Jean, you’re half wrong. For example, the proposed rent for the new Comox development in the West End is $1,340 for a one bedroom and $1,890 for a two-bedroom. This is a 14 per cent higher rent then similar West End towers and Downtown in general.
What does all this mean for our family? We love urban living, my husband can walk to work and cultural experiences are at our fingertips, yet the cost of living is a struggle. The rent we can afford to pay lands us in a 100-year-old house with many quirks and some down right inconveniences. My husband and I talk about having a third child (crazy, but still a dream) although our space relative to that of a five-member family in the burbs is ridonkulously (that’s a word) small. The facts and figures above suggest we shouldn’t bank on more affordable housing in the future….
Yakkity, yak. I hate complaining. This is the point where I get existential on your ass and tell you that the housing solution for us, personally, is contentment with what we have. Next week on Elasticpantcity I’ll tell you why I need to quit whinging and use my voice for my fellow Vancouverites who are fighting just to have a roof over their heads.
*I’ll humbly accept correction if my reasoning and facts are wrong.