“Renters of Vancouver” takes an intimate look at how the city's millennials are dealing with the housing crisis.
“The house that I was living in wasn’t right for me in the long-term. But when I tried to move somewhere different, I found out that a lot of properties on the market are much, much worse.
I thought I had somewhere great lined up in Mount Pleasant. The house was fantastic—but the landlord was very weird. When I first viewed the place, I only met the tenants who were all moving away together, rather than the owner. In the subsequent conversations we had, they were very non-committal in their answers about the landlord, so I decided I definitely wanted to meet him. He was an interesting fellow.
The ad on Cragslist called the place a ‘shared house with a community vibe’, which was something I wanted. But after talking to the landlord, I realized that he was actually after a scheme where people lived in the house, but also used the living space to make some extra money. He said that he wanted all the tenants to come together for a house meeting every couple of weeks to work out a new proposal. I asked what the last tenants had come up with, and he said that it never really worked out. I pushed him about what kind of ideas he had in mind, and he told me that I’d have to talk about my thoughts in the meetings. It was a bit strange that he was being so evasive.
I really wanted to live in the house, though, so I told him that I was prepared to make it work, and that I would help him fill up the rest of the bedrooms with good people I could get along with. In return, I asked to have the lease in my name, but he refused to do that.
Some warning bells were ringing for me, but I decided to go for it because it’s hard to find a place to live in Vancouver. The next time I saw him was the day that the old housemates were moving out. I paid my deposit and first month’s rent. He was sitting outside the front of the house in his car, and refused to go in. He told me that I had to be the one to check if the place was, in his words, ‘immaculate’.
I went in and asked the previous tenants to scrub the oven, but the house was basically clean apart from a bit of dust. There wasn’t any physical damage to the property, and it was fine for me to start living there. I moved in.
The next day I happened to be out of the house, and he started texting me. He’d obviously been in the place, and said that there was a problem. He told me that he couldn’t see the white of the grout, and that the house was therefore filthy. He said it was up to me to sort it out if I wanted to keep the place. I tried to call him to have a rational conversation about it, but he refused to pick up. Instead, he came to where I was in a coffee shop, and we had an awkward conversation. I decided I’d had enough. I went back to the house, packed up all my stuff, and left. I’d only been living there for one day.
I was then essentially homeless, so I immediately went down to East 42nd to see two properties. There was a stream of people going through—about twenty or thirty when I was there. The first place was fine, but it had a washer-dryer in the bedroom. I asked whether it was going to be used by everyone, and when the landlord said yes, I asked if it was possible to move it, because I didn’t want to rent a bedroom that was actually the laundry room. The landlord said it had to stay where it was.
I then looked at the other property. They were renting out the shed in the garden for a person to live in. The best way that I can describe it is that the walls weren’t entirely walls. There was a roof, and then there was a half-foot gap before the walls began. It would obviously be freezing in winter, and there wouldn’t be an easy way to heat it. The room was done up as a living space quite nicely, and there was a fair amount of room, but you were basically living outside. It was on the market for $750.
I went to look at one last place, trying to stay calm. It was in the West End, and it was perfect. I took it immediately, and now I live in a one-bedroom condo with another person. I have the bedroom, and my roommate sleeps in the living space. We get along well, and I'm happy it’s worked out so perfectly in the end.”
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