Renters of Vancouver: “From my first day in the house, I noticed the vibe was off”

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

      “I used to live up on campus at Simon Fraser University, but I wanted to find accommodation that was a bit cheaper than what I was paying in residence. Two of my friends were living in a detached house and they let me know that a room was coming up in something similar. I was about to go on a summer trip, and the place was going to be available for when I got back. It all seemed perfect.

      “I spoke to the landlady, and she said that it was no trouble at all for me to move in on the date I returned to Canada. She told me that it was actually easier for her not to have to post the ad at all, and if I could just come in and pay for the half-month and then proceed with a contract after that, it would be great. I agreed.

      “I was on a tight schedule, and my job started the day I landed in Vancouver. I was working for the university to settle new students into residence, show them where to find things like groceries, and welcome them to Canada. I would leave the house at seven in the morning, and I wouldn’t finish until around midnight. That meant that for a long while most of my stuff was in storage and at my friends’ places, because I hadn’t had any free time to move in properly and unpack.

      “From my first day in the house, I noticed the vibe was off. I could feel that I wasn’t the preferred choice of the other roommates, and that was confirmed to me by their behaviour. There was one tenant who was unofficially in charge of managing the house, who was very OCD about everything being spotless, and cleaning up after yourself. Don’t get me wrong—I agreed with that sentiment, because it makes everyone accountable and pleasant to live with. But right from the start, she began assigning me the toughest chores. I decided to suck it up and get on with it without mentioning it, but the following week the same thing happened again. I felt like I was being punished and I didn’t know why.

      “Next they sent a complaint to the landlady saying that I was using their stuff. I found that very unsettling, because there was just no way it could be true. I was never actually in the house. I was away all day, and when I got home—which was after midnight—I had to go to bed immediately to be ready to leave early every morning. It was impossible that I could ever have used a significant amount of anything. I didn’t have time to cook, and I barely used the washroom. I couldn’t understand why they were saying this, and I couldn’t get my head around why they didn’t approach me, but went straight to the landlady.

      “I explained the situation to the owner when she contacted me, and the problem wasn’t raised again. But the girls were very hostile towards me in the house, and they were quite disrespectful. They would invite people over for big parties on the weekends and wouldn’t tell me about it—so if I ever finished work early and managed to get home with a little bit more free time than I would have during the week, I’d walk in and see 20 to 30 people.

      “They also chose to speak about me in a different language. I know sometimes people think you can talk about someone else and they can’t understand it, but you can really tell from the body language what’s going on. They would switch to that language to say things that they didn’t want me to hear. It was pretty alienating.

      “Then the very next day, when the landlady came to collect the money on the first of the month, she said that the girls had decided to rent out the entire section of the house for themselves. They were, essentially, evicting me from the building. I got no notice. The first I found out about it was when the landlady came to tell me that I could no longer live there because they had paid for the whole floor. There was no warning.

      “To me, that was quite shocking, because I don’t think they took the time to think about how that decision would affect my life. For them, they wanted to better their situation just because they had assumed from the start that they wouldn’t like me. They didn’t think about where I was going to find a place with no notice.

      “Fortunately, I got really lucky. There happened to be someone moving out upstairs in the same house, so I only had to transfer into that room. But the low vacancy rates and high prices for rents meant that I don’t know where else I would have gone. Over the years, and especially now, finding a place has become more and more difficult, especially when you’re on a budget—and particularly when you’re a student. You have to take what you can find.”

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