If you’re a renter, you probably know how hard it is to find an affordable place to live in Metro Vancouver. You’ve also likely been to an open house where 20 others are already lined up with a cheque book for the same place (and no pets please!) Vancity’s latest report on rental housing examines found that millennials make up the largest group of renters in the region and are being pushed further away from the city’s core to find affordable places to live.
We sat down with William Azaroff, Vancity’s vice-president of community investment, to talk about some solutions.
Q: Vancity’s report about rental housing found that renting is no longer a viable alternative to owning for many working households in Metro Vancouver (especially millennials). What are some solutions to this problem?
WA: The report did find that affordable rents are generally only found in East Hastings and Marpole within the City of Vancouver (based on an estimated median income of $40,300 in 2015). It also found that high average rents and low vacancy rates are increasingly limiting where younger people and lower income households can afford to live and work. To help, we are recommending that GST rebates on new rental developments and other tax incentives are developed to encourage the creation of private rental housing. Other recommendations include establishing a provincial housing registry for all rental housing to better track supply and demand so we can better understand this issue moving forward.
Q: Why is this an important issue?
WA: Because renters make up more than one-third of households in Metro Vancouver and a little more than half of residents in the City of Vancouver. Most renters are millennials and being priced out of the communities they call home affects their quality of life, especially if they have longer commutes to work. As a trend, this could leave businesses from many industries with less employee talent to draw from. Renters work in a variety of industries and sectors, including education, health and construction. They aren’t only employed in lower-wage service jobs as is often believed.
Q: What are some things renters can do?
WA: Some renters have chosen to make things more affordable by sharing a home with roommates. We’ve heard that some people are sharing mansions with several people to reduce rent costs, while others are creating resumes to stand out from other potential renters when looking for a place. Of course, advocating about the need for more affordable housing is also something that people should consider.