Renters of Vancouver: “It’s like living in res at a university, except we’re all adults.”

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      “Renters of Vancouver” takes an intimate look at how the city's millennials are dealing with the housing crisis.

      "I live in a microsuite. It’s pretty much a really small studio, with shared washrooms that are outside your building. It’s not a million miles away from the single rooms you get in res at a university, except of course that we’re all adults.

      I moved here from Saskatoon for school, and I started off living in Burnaby because my dad’s cousin had a house there. I rented out the basement for a cheap family rate. It was great—if something broke it was fixed right away, and I barely paid anything. But when I graduated I decided it was time to find my own place, so I moved into my spot in Gastown.

      On my level there’s probably 15 suites, and there’s three floors. So I reckon there’s about 45 apartments in my building. The property footprint isn’t very big at all, so that will give you an idea of how tiny the rooms can be.

      My place isn’t too bad compared to others I’ve looked at, though. Some rooms in my building are literally closet-size. My home is definitely small, but it’s possible to economize the space so that it’s livable. I don’t have any permanent furniture. I have a small twin bed, some foldable chairs and a foldable table.

      In the smallest microsuites, there’s room for a mattress and that’s it. I don’t know where they’d even keep their clothes, or have any kind of kitchen utilities. They must never cook or eat at home because there’s nowhere to do that.

      I have a bit of a makeshift kitchen in mine. I have one hot plate, a toaster oven, and a microwave. It came with a fridge, which is good, and it’s easy to cook for one there. If I had to make food for others that would be difficult, but I couldn’t fit that many people in my space anyway, so it’s not really an issue. I make it work.

      The washroom situation isn’t too bad either. I live about 20 steps from the bathrooms, and there’s two washrooms between every three or four apartments. Plus the building manager hires people to clean it, and it’s always nice not to have to scrub toilets yourself if you have the option. The only negative is that I have to leave my suite—and remember to take my keys.

      I pay $700 for the room and I think that’s really reasonable. I get to walk everywhere and I rarely have to leave downtown on the bus or Skytrain. I’ve considered heading back to Burnaby to find a bigger place for an affordable price, but I work around here, and it seems a bit counterproductive to pay for a monthly transit pass on top of rent. Plus when I’m working late, the transit has actually stopped. Some people at my job have to grab a $40 cab to get home, which eats into your paycheck.

      There’s a few downsides to my microsuite though. Because I’m not in the tourist part of Gastown, it’s actually a little bit dirty. And there’s a lot of homeless people around. People say that Gastown is so nice and pretty—and it is, until you go off the beaten track a bit into the residents’ part. I’ve never felt unsafe, but it could be sketchy. I’m one block away from the bad part of Hastings, so sometimes a few of the aggressive homeless guys trickle into my neighbourhood. It’s fine during the day, but walking home by myself at 3am is a little bit worrying sometimes.

      I live by myself downtown, though, so I try not to complain at all. I know I have a really good deal and that I was so lucky to find this place. I was 19 and it was my first time looking for an apartment, and I’m so fortunate to have stumbled across it.

      I still think my room is a good “starter-suite,” but since my fixed-term lease ran out a year and a half ago and my contract became month-to-month, I’ve been searching for a home that might have a separate bedroom or its own bathroom. It’s my dream to be able to have a real bed, not just a little bed you put in the corner. Unfortunately, there’s still nothing that I can afford, especially downtown.

      Even when I look at other microsuites or studios, they’re a minimum of $1000 or $1100, and even smaller than the place I’m in now. I’m so thankful to have this space to live. Honestly, I’m a little bit worried to give it up."

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