Fire forced them out of their RV, and into Victoria’s unforgiving housing market

A devastating fire in Victoria is another example of B.C.’s housing affordability crisis.
An RV catches fire on Vancouver Island, destroying the home and lives of a couple who can least afford it. Neetu Garcha reports.

Chris Falkner and Danny Doyle had just moved all their possessions into an RV, after moving to Victoria without a home.

Then, on Friday afternoon, the vehicle that the semi-retired couple made their home went up in flames in the Greater Victoria town of View Royal.

Now, they’re facing the realities of Victoria’s rental market, where vacancy is close to zero and a one-bedroom apartment can cost you over $900 per month.

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Falkner and Doyle had borrowed $3,000 from their friend David Brooks to buy the RV, and they didn’t have insurance on it.

“We moved everything we own into it yesterday, and it’s all gone,” Falkner told Global News.

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The fire is believed to have been caused by an engine failure.

“Can you imagine it happening to you? You have no home?” Brooks said.

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And it happened at a time when housing is becoming more and more difficult to come by in B.C.’s capital.

The most recent rental market report by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), which was current for October 2016, pegged Victoria’s vacancy rate at 0.5 per cent, with an average one-bedroom apartment going for $912 per month.

And buying a home is even more challenging.

This chart shows housing affordability in Victoria from February 2016 to June 2017.
This chart shows housing affordability in Victoria from February 2016 to June 2017. Global News/Infogram

In the fourth quarter of 2015, a home in Victoria would have cost people 46.4 per cent of local incomes, according to RBC’s Housing Affordability Report.

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That climbed to 56.7 per cent in the first quarter of 2017.

The city well outpaced housing affordability nationally.

READ MORE: B.C. city now ranks among world’s top 2 luxury home markets, and it’s not Vancouver

And that’s saying nothing of how difficult it is to find a place on Craigslist.

A listing on the website can bring as many as 50 to 60 inquiries within an hour of it being posted, said Anmol Swaich, director of campaigns and community relations with the University of Victoria Students’ Society (UVSS).

Emily Rogers of the Together Against Poverty Society said the housing crisis is touching “every corner of our province.”

“We see people holding down full-time jobs who don’t have a home,” she told Global News.

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“It is unprecedented how many people are being displaced, and we need systemic change to fix the problem.”

In the meantime, Falkner and Doyle need to find a place to live.

Their friend David Brooks has offered up his phone number to anyone who can help them out. He can be reached at (250) 589-5677.

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