“Renters of Vancouver” takes an intimate look at how the city's millennials are dealing with the housing crisis.
"I live near Joyce Skytrain station in a two-bedroom rancher with my wife and baby. We moved here in December, and when the landlord sold the property after a few months, the new owner evicted us. My son is four months old, and we can’t find a place to live.
When we first moved in, we discovered a lot was wrong with the house. There’s mould in the laundry room, the eaves are clogged, the drains have come off, and the piping is so old that the line was backing up, which makes it smell like sewage. At first the fridge was broken, and the furnace didn’t work either. We moved here in the winter, so we didn’t have heat for two months—and my partner was five months pregnant at the time. It wasn’t ideal, but it was the only thing in our budget.
We said that our aim was to rent long-term, and the landlord told us he wanted the same thing. A few months later, he sold the place. Those new owners evicted us for 'landlord use' because they wanted to move in, even though it’s most likely not true. If they do make the house their residence, I suspect that they’ll stay for a short while to get us out, and then sell it on. Either way, our family has until the end of September to leave.
It’s been impossible to find a new home because we have a child. Places repeatedly tell us that they won’t accommodate a baby. I can show you a picture of my sent emails—I’ve fired out hundreds of messages to potential spots. I’ve sent a minimum of 10 a day, every day, for the last month and a half. And I’ve got six responses back.
There literally is nothing available for people in our situation, even as far from my work as Surrey and deep Richmond. It’s getting to the point where I’m thinking about just not mentioning that we’re a small family.
The current place costs us $1,600 a month to rent, which is the best deal we can get. It’s very difficult to find a home at a comparable price that will take us—and even then we wouldn’t be able to afford it. Even though I’m working at a salaried job in Gastown, I clear about $2,100 after taxes. My partner had to quit her job while she was pregnant due to unsafe conditions, and she wasn’t able to find more work while she was expecting our son.
Now she doesn’t have enough hours to get maternity leave. I support the both of us while she watches him, and despite being tight with our money, we’re sliding into debt. We’ve talked about if my partner was to work full-time, but most of her wage would go to child-care—which would be low-quality—and we’d only end up with about $300 to $400 more a month. It would barely put a dent in what we owe.
It’s impossible for me to do anything other than trying to make ends meet, and caring for my son. I totally understand that it’s a part of being a father—you have to give up a lot of your time for your baby. But I’m putting in 10 to 12 hours a day, five to six days a week at this job, and in the moments that I’m home, I’m so exhausted I can barely look after him.
The minute I get back my partner gives me my child, takes things off the burners, switches over the laundry, then we jump him back and forth while we eat, and she goes to bed. I have about an hour and a half of my own time every day, which isn’t enough to get a second job to make ends meet. It’s very difficult to survive in this city.
We’ve got to the point now where me and my partner will have to live apart for a while. She’s going out of the country to stay with family, so I can try and find some sort of small room to rent somewhere, and get the cost of living down so I can pay off some of our debt.
A lot of my family and friends can’t believe that this is the route that we’ve chosen to take. But after discussing every night what we were going to do, this seems like the only possibility. She’ll be around family, who can give her the support that I can’t because I’m working so much, and I can try and cut down what we owe.
It’s going to be very tough. My partner will be gone or about five or six months, and our son has only been alive for four. So I’m probably going to miss his first word, and maybe even his first step. It’s upsetting that it’s the only option we have to find another place to live."More