“Renters of Vancouver” takes an intimate look at how the city's millennials are dealing with the housing crisis.
“Last year I split up with my partner, and when I moved out of our apartment, I didn’t have anywhere to go. It was incredibly short notice because it was a quick break-up, and because the rental market is so hot, there was hardly anything available to move into in terms of longer-term accommodation.
In order to look for an affordable, decent place, I had to go into Airbnbs.
I lived in a number of different properties for about a month. First I had a room in False Creek, in the Olympic Village area. Seven days alone cost me $300-400. It was basically double what the usual rents would have been, because that’s the kind of money that people can rake in from Airbnb. Next I lived in a place in Yaletown for about a week. It was my fault not to check comprehensively beforehand, but the Airbnb didn’t come with parking, so I had to leave my truck in a particular zone in Kitsilano, and then take Car2Go to get it. I spent some weekends sleeping on friends’ couches between that, and also went back to Kamloops over the holidays to try and offset the cost of the Airbnbs.
Eventually, I ended up moving into a laneway house on Commercial Drive with a three-month lease. It was really cheap—only $1300—and a great place. I wanted to stay there for longer, and I tried to negotiate that, but the woman who owned it had recently gone through a divorce and she was totally overstretched with the mortgage. At the end of the time period, she terminated my tenancy as per the contract, and—ironically—she turned the laneway house into an Airbnb. I understand why she made that choice—she can make $200 a night with that kind of property in the summer—but it’s frustrating that having the home as an Airbnb takes it off the rental market, especially when Vancouver is at a 0.7% vacancy rate.
There are approximately 1200 units in the city that could be long-term housing units, but are being rented out on Airbnb for very short periods. That’s a sizable portion of the available homes that are being taken off the market. I know that the city has a bylaw that says that you’re not allowed to rent out short-term accommodation in residentially-zoned areas for anything less than 30 days, but there’s no enforcement of that. Which makes sense if you think about it—who’s going to pay to make sure that bylaw is followed?
I’m lucky. I have a steady income and good references, so I was able to find a nice place by using that three-month time period to really scan the rental market. Now I’m living in a basement suite out on Boundary Road. It’s on the other side of the “Welcome to Vancouver” sign, but it’s a 950 square apartment, and it’s only $950 a month.
I’ve thought a lot about it though, and I’ve decided to finally buy a place. Because rents are so high, it hardly makes sense to be a tenant anymore. If you look at the numbers, you can make a comparatively small down payment, and own a property for pretty much the same price as you can rent with today’s market. That’s my plan.”
Got a story to share? Tweet Kate Wilson here.