“Renters of Vancouver” takes an intimate look at how the city's residents are dealing with the housing crisis. This feature, from the tenant's perspective, is the second in a two-part series. The landlady's viewpoint was published last Saturday (March 17).
“I met my current landlady when she came to work for a bit in my country. After a while, we made friends, and I told her about my intentions for the future. I am the eldest son, and in my culture that means I’m the head of the family. I was supporting my mom and my brothers with my salary, but it was my goal that when they had finished their studies, I could go and pursue my dreams.
“I always wanted to go abroad to study. I had lived in my country for 28 years, and I didn’t see anything change for me, or for my family. I wanted to do something that would help me to raise my family to the next level in society, so we could have a better life. In my country, we were just surviving. I wanted to experience what it would be like to live, and not just to survive.
“My landlady helped me to look into programs for nursing and midwifery. I decided to apply to school in Vancouver, where she lived. I got in. Now she lets me stay in the second bedroom of her apartment for free, while I go to school.
“I am very, very lucky to have her support. Housing in the city is so expensive, and if I didn’t have a place to stay, it would be impossible for me to study here. If I had to pay rent, I don’t think I would be able to focus on my schoolwork. Right now, as well as going to university, I have a good job. I’m able to stick to my visa requirements, which are that I can’t work more than 20 hours during a pay period. My priority can be school, and my landlady’s help is allowing me to succeed in that.
“Most of my paycheck goes towards my family. I send money home every month, because no-one is working apart from my younger brother, who is a teacher. His pay is only $100 USD a month, and they’re all trying to survive on that. I double that salary working only 20 hours in Canada, and give them as much as I can. If I was renting, I couldn’t afford to give them anything.
“As well as providing me with a place to stay, my landlady helps me out with other things too. At one point, I had to go to see a doctor. At home, even though the law says that healthcare is free, you have to take cash with you to pay people in the hospital. I was talking to my landlady about how the visit would happen, and how much money I should bring with me. She helped me through the process. When I found out that all I needed to take was my health card, I was amazed.
“My landlady also helped me with learning about the banking system. In my country I had a bank card, but it was for my salary only, and we didn’t have anything like online banking. I just used it to take money out from the bank—like an ATM. I got my first credit card here. At first it had a $300 limit. All those things were new to me, and she gave me support to work them out.
“It’s thanks to her that I managed to come here to study. When I first tried to get my visa, I was rejected four times. To apply, I had to send in documents that showed I’d been accepted to a school, what my finances were, what my purpose of study was, and my ties to the country. Each time I got a rejection letter, it would say that I wasn’t a bona fide student. My landlady helped me take the government to court to say that they weren’t abiding by their own rules for the visas. There was nothing to show that I wasn’t a real student. She sent in her own finances, and showed that she owned an apartment. She had to say that I wasn’t going to go on income assistance or just disappear into Canada. I just wanted to come here and learn, and she made that happen.
“I haven’t decided for sure if I’ll stay here after I’ve finished school. It would be hard to get my nursing degree and go back to my country and then work for nothing. Nurses at home are treated badly. But it would be very difficult to live without my family.
“The housing crisis in Vancouver also factors into my decision. I love this city. You can do anything you want—everything is available here. But it’s very expensive. I’ve been thinking of living and working in another place in Canada, but it would be sad to move away and start over again for a second time. I’m still in the process of getting to know people and making friends, and it would be tough to have to go and do it again.
“More than anything, though, I’m very thankful to my landlady to have been given this opportunity to experience a different life.”More