Editorial: Situation dire for Cowichan residents looking to rent

the vacancy rate in B.C. is a tiny 1.4 per cent

This is why we need both affordable housing and the kind of apartment building being constructed on Paddle Road in North Cowichan.

A report from the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation released this week shows that B.C. has some of the lowest rental vacancy rates in Canada, and the highest average rents.

Some perspective: the vacancy rate in B.C. is a tiny 1.4 per cent, with the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment soaring to $1,387 per month. That’s higher than in Toronto and Alberta.

About one-quarter of municipalities in B.C. have an even lower vacancy rate of under one per cent. The only way it could be worse is if you were in Charlottetown, P.E.I., with a minuscule 0.2 per cent vacancy rate.

So the picture is this: if you can manage to find a place to rent, the owner or manager is calling all the shots and the renter must agree to pretty much anything in order to get a roof over their head. And it’s going to take at least half of most people’s paycheques. Think about being a single parent trying to afford that, or a senior on a fixed income. What if you have a big family and need more than two bedrooms? The price just keeps climbing. Then imagine if you have a pet and are trying to find somewhere. It’s a nightmare.

One of the Citizen reporters remarked that you pretty much have to know someone to find a place in the Cowichan Valley.

So while our municipalities need to look at managing projects like the Paddle Road construction in a way that’s much less of a hassle to existing residents (they can’t have streets essentially impassible for months at a time), that kind of planning is certainly possible, and the housing is desperately needed.

Those who can’t afford to, or for whatever reason don’t want to buy a home, still need and deserve to have a roof over their heads. They also need and deserve to have palatable options so they don’t get stuck in terrible and even abusive situations, but are forced to stay because their only other choice is, literally, the street.

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