“Renters of Vancouver” takes an intimate look at how the city's residents are dealing with the housing crisis.
“I’m a professional, full-time working person, and I’m a single mom. I never thought I might have to put down my pet, and give another one away, for us not to be homeless.
“Six years ago I was moving out of a relationship with my son’s father, and I put up an ad on Craigslist to find a new home for the two of us. The ad described who we both were, and what my son and I were looking for. I got multiple offers. We managed to negotiate, got to choose the best place available, and we moved into a brand new three-level, two-bedroom townhouse in Coquitlam. We had our two pets, the rent was reasonable, and we agreed that we’d stay long-term. I expected to live there until my son was into high school.
“Earlier this month I found a leak in the ceiling, so I called the landlord to let him know. When he came over we got to chatting, and he told me that he and his wife were going to be moving into our home. They had previously been living in a big house in Delta, but because their pensions are paid out in British currency—and the exchange rate is significantly worse than it used to be—they would have to sell that property.
“My landlord and his wife are really nice people, and I don’t think they made the decision easily. They gave us three months’ notice, which was very kind. He was always fantastic, and we had a very good relationship. He never raised our rent for all the time we were there because he wanted us to stay.
“When I heard the news I went online immediately, and I put out a similar ad on Craigslist to the one I used for our last home. I got absolutely nothing in response. I’ve sent more than 50 emails out already, and only had six viewings so far.
“I found one potential place, but it’s $360 a month more than I pay now. Because I’m a single parent, I just can’t afford it. I have a very good job, and I make a good wage, but the market has risen so much in six years. We don’t live lavishly by any means—we’re always pinching pennies. I’ve been turning it over in mind about how we could make that rent work. I realize that if we take it, I won’t have enough left over to buy my kid a new pair of shoes.
“I’ve tried to negotiate with the landlord to ask for a price reduction in return for a longer lease. I spent hours crafting that email. I figured that he’d either be really offended and never reply because he could easily rent the place for what he was asking, or he might consider helping us out. I have my fingers crossed. It’s hard, though, knowing that there is a long line of other people willing to take it.
“I don’t want to move too far away from our current area, because my son is in a really good school. All his friends are there, all his teachers are there, and he loves it. He’s already very independent and takes the bus himself because I have to leave so early for work, and I don’t want to disrupt his routine.
“The other reason we’ve been finding it difficult is our pets. I have a fantastically behaved cat who is three, called Ricky. My dog is 10, and he’s a Rottweiler—so he’s the second most vilified breed after the pit-bull, despite the fact that he’s always been incredibly docile. Very few properties allow pets, and even listings that permit dogs have breed restrictions.
“Now we’re faced with the option of putting my dog to sleep, or finding a place to live. I’ve always been a person who would rather live in their car than give up their pets, but I have to put my son first. I’m really worried about what that says to him—that finding a new home means taking the family dog that he’s grown up with, and putting him down. I don’t want to raise him with the values that the things he loves are expendable.
“My head has been all over the place recently. I lose my keys daily. I lost my wallet last weekend—and I am not a forgetful person. My son is picking up on it. He’s only 11, and he’s stressed. He’s waking up in the middle of the night. He’s coming home after school, getting out our old laptop, and looking for potential places to live. I tell him not to worry about it and that I’ve got this, because I’m the mom.
“I talk to everybody about it. I’m not being proud about this at all—I’m doing everything I can to find us a home. We know we’re not going to find anything like the place we have now. We know we’re going to have to downsize. We know it’s going to be older. We know we’re going to have to pay more money for it—and we’re okay with all of that. As long as we can all be together, and it’s safe, and he can get to school, and I can get to work, then we’re okay.
“I want to say to my son, ‘Do well in school; go to university; and make enough money to try and own your own place. And then hopefully this won’t happen to you’.”