New report shows housing affordability crisis spreading
A new report shows Metro Vancouver’s affordability crisis is surging into the suburbs at alarming speed, hammering low-income families and disproportionately affecting mothers who may be on the brink of homelessness. The report, which is titled No Vacancy and was coauthored by Union Gospel Mission and Dr. Penny Gurstein from UBC’s School of Community and Regional Planning, reveals the following key findings:
• Vacancy rates outside the City of Vancouver have dramatically decreased. Suburban cities that once were an affordable refuge, such as Surrey and Burnaby, are now witnessing the most striking changes. Surrey’s vacancy rate fell from 5.7% in 2012 to near zero in 2017.
• There has been a 32% surge in the number of Metro Vancouver families on BC’s housing registry since 2014. This compares to a rise of 3% between 2012 and 2016.
• A mom who is supporting a 10-year-old child, while working full-time at minimum wage, would have just $4/month remaining after covering basic expenses.
• 61% of families on the housing registry are led by single parents, and approximately 87% of these families are female-led.
• For families seeking affordable housing, particularly those renting at less than $750 per month, there are virtually no vacancies for 2-bedroom units (0%). Additionally, between 2012 and 2017, overall vacancy rates for 2-bedroom units dropped in Surrey from 6.5% to 0.7%, and in Burnaby from 2.8% to 0.8%.
• Shelter occupancy has consistently been over 100% for the past 5 years.
The report indicates these structural factors are particularly punishing for mothers like Jackie Myerion. After being evicted from her Surrey basement suite this summer, Jackie, along with her partner and two young children, resorted to living in a park, camping inside a tent for an entire month.
“It was devastating,” says the 35-year-old. “It was horrible, really horrible to find housing.” “I never thought we would be in that positon,” says her 35-year-old partner Jesse.
“Given the data, it’s no surprise that homelessness has continued to rise,” says Dr. Penny Gurstein of UBC’s School of Community and Regional Planning. “The crisis is particularly pronounced for low-income families because of low vacancy rates, rising rents and lack of adequate housing.”
“The crisis is pushing new people into homelessness and making it harder to escape,” says UGM’s Jeremy Hunka.