Low rental vacancy rates leading to rise in homelessness in Metro Vancouver: report

Oct 12 2016, 9:42 pm

While it’s no secret that Metro Vancouver is in the midst of a housing crisis, a new report suggests low vacancy rates and high rent might be contributing to increased homelessness in the city.

The report titled “No Vacancy: Affordability and Homelessness in Vancouver” by Union Gospel Mission and the University of Victoria says the consequences of Metro Vancouver’s lack of vacancy and increasing rental rates are most severe for people who are low-income.

“In particular, low vacancy rates put pressure on the housing market and contribute to an upward rise in rents,” reads the report. “This combination of decreasing vacancy rates and rising rent levels has been consistently identified as a contributor to increased homelessness, as people are excluded from the private rental housing market.”

Vacancy rates in the Metro area have dropped from nearly 2% in 2010 to less than half that (0.8%) in 2015, with the City of Vancouver experiencing vacancy rates of around 0.6%. In that same time period, the price of a one bedroom unit increased 15%, while bachelors increased 16%.

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Bachelor suites that cost $750 or less per month are at less than 0.1% vacancy in Vancouver, despite a marked increase in the number of bachelor and one-bedroom units available.

“This means that even with additions to the supply across the region, there is a shrinking low end of market available to those who are homeless or experiencing housing vulnerability,” the report says.

As such, the need for subsidized housing is on the rise in Metro Vancouver – in 2012, there were 8,968 people on the Housing Registry. That number has since grown to 10,278, representing a 15% increase. Senior citizens represent about 1,000 new applicants over the past five years.

In order to solve the housing crisis, notes the report, the province needs to introduce more subsidized housing, rent subsidy programs, rental and income assistance, and rent supplement programs.

After all, it seems the problem isn’t going away anytime soon.

“The structural factors that drive homelessness, including average market rents, vacancy rates, and supply of low end of market housing, signal that in the current environment, homelessness will continue to grow.”

Lauren SundstromLauren Sundstrom

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