Metro Vancouver’s affordability crisis is “surging” into the suburbs at “alarming” speed, which in turn is “hammering” low-income families and disproportionately affecting mothers who may be on the brink of homelessness.
Those are the findings of a new report, entitled No Vacancy coauthored by Union Gospel Mission and Dr. Penny Gurstein from UBC’s School of Community and Regional Planning.
Released today, those behind the report said some of the key findings in it include:
- 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, which do not include transportation costs, clothing, dental coverage, etc;
- 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 at the low end of market, particularly those renting at less than $750 per month, there are virtually no vacancies for two-bedroom units (0%). Additionally, between 2012 and 2017, overall vacancy rates for two-bedroom units dropped in Surrey from 6.5% to 0.7%, and in Burnaby from 2.8% to 0.8%; and
- Shelter occupancy has consistently been over 100% for the past five 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, Myerion, 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 position,” says her 35-year-old partner Jesse.
Given the data, “it’s no surprise that homelessness has continued to rise,” said Gurstein. “The crisis is particularly pronounced for low-income families because of low vacancy rates, rising rents and lack of adequate housing.”
As the crisis spreads, Union Gospel Mission is urging residents to ‘vote with affordability and homelessness in mind’ during the region’s municipal elections, launching a website, as part of the efforts.
“The crisis is both pushing new people into homelessness and making it harder to escape,” said UGM’s Jeremy Hunka. “We’re not telling people how to vote. We’re giving them the tools to be educated at the ballot box and vote according to their convictions.”
The more focus on homelessness, he added, “the better, because lives are at stake.”