A quarter of Vancouver tenants spend more than 50 percent of their income on rent. And 46 percent of tenants are paying more than 30 percent of their income to keep a roof above their heads.
This data is included in a new rental-housing index created by the B.C. Non-Profit Housing Association and Vancity. BCNPHA executive director Tony Roy told the Georgia Straight by phone that there are several tools for assessing affordability for homeowners, but this is the first time anyone has taken a detailed look at the incomes of tenants.
“There are plenty of places in Vancouver where you might have five people making minimum wage having a place together,” Roy said. “Well, on paper it looks like they’re making $100,000—and that’s a wealthy household. But, in truth, they’ve really just overcrowded themselves into a smaller place in order to make do.”
The index includes an interactive map of the province—with almost 500,000 cells of data—that offers insights into affordability issues in 100 municipalities and regional districts. Roy said the B.C. government has focused economic efforts on attracting immigrant investors and international students, and promoting the resource sector, including mining. He suggested that these initiatives will lead to a higher number of tenants in the province, but almost all new homes are being built for owners.
“The north is going to have some real challenges,” he stated.
Roy also said that federal subsidies in the Lower Mainland will end with the looming expiry of operating agreements for housing cooperatives. The first batch will have an effect on 5,000 families, he revealed, because a third of co-op tenants have rent linked to their incomes.
“Those 5,000 families are all of a sudden going to have their subsidies pulled out from under them like a rug,” Roy said. “They’re either going to go into the nonprofit housing sector or they’re going to end up homeless because the co-ops are not going to be able to fund them from other people’s rents.”
Roy pointed out that the federal government plans to transfer money spent on these subsidies into general revenue, whereas he would rather see it used to house people in need. “But if they cut it all and recognize it as surpluses, then we’re going to see big increases in homelessness,” he predicted.