Vancouver’s Rental Reality is a week-long original series looking at housing in Vancouver from the renter’s perspective. From renters locked out of the property ladder to hellish landlords, renovictions and cramped living quarters we look at how renters say the city is pushing them away.
Sandra Evans and her husband moved to Vancouver in the early 2000s. After living in Yaletown for a number of years, they moved to Point Grey where they have been renting a home with their two teenage kids for the past seven years.
With Sandra working as a government lawyer and her husband a specialist physician, it sounds like the kind of family that wouldn’t get caught up in the housing crisis.
But even they have had their fair share of problems.
Although the family can afford to live comfortably, the dream of buying their own home is not a financially viable option.
“By the time we were in a position to buy, or to thinking about buying, the market was already racing ahead,” explains Sandra.
With two years left on their current lease, they are weighing their options and contemplating whether they should stay in the city.
But the thought of buying a house would feel like starting over.
“We can afford to buy the house we live in, but it would mean tying up a lot of retirement funds, funds for our children’s education, so we just rather have the money in hand then throw everything we have into a house,” said Sandra.
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So, why not look elsewhere?
Sandra said that her husband’s job as a physician at St. Paul’s Hospital requires him to be close to downtown Vancouver.
“I’m not sure he’s going to want to make that commute in to deal with being on-call or coming in to cover somebody else.”
They are also limited by Sandra’s job, and are uncomfortable about the idea of transplanting their kids into a whole new school if they did leave.
But Point Grey is not what it used to be.
Many of their neighbours have packed up and left the area, having sold their properties.
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Sandra recalls one retired couple that said that they could get $3-million for their property, but didn’t want to sell, because they loved their home and neighbourhood.
However, when that same couple was offered $6.5-million, they changed their minds.
“It’s very hard to say no to $6.5-million, even if you love your neighbourhood. But increasingly there are just empty homes.”
Even though Point Grey is known as one of Canada’s most luxurious neighbourhoods, Sandra said that it is being gutted.
“I would say about a quarter of the houses in my neighbourhood feel to be empty. Sometime, there will be three houses in a row that are empty,” she said.
“Sometimes, there will be three houses in a row that are being torn down. On some corners, there will be three houses in the midst of construction.”
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Concerned about how their neighbourhood has changed in the short time they’ve lived there, Sandra and her husband dread what it might look like five to 10 years from now.
So while owning their own dream home in Vancouver may not be an option, renting for the family has not always been straightforward either.
Back when the couple realized Sandra was first pregnant, her husband felt that they needed a larger home to start their family.
But after just 18 months in their home, they received an eviction notice.
“We were booted from our housing rental when our foreign landlord wanted to flip the house. He decided to tear it down instead, build to the maximum allowable, then sold it,” she said.
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“The same happened to our neighbours across the street. Foreign landlord rented the property to them for exactly a year, had them leave and then the landlord and his family “lived” in it for about three months before he flipped it.”
Now their biggest concern is where their children will live, Sandra said.
“My daughter has already expressed interest in not going to university here, and I’ve encouraged my children to consider going elsewhere because I don’t see a lot of opportunity.”
As EU passport holders, they realize they are in the fortunate position of having more options than many Canadians. But moving their lives across the world is not an ideal situation, either.
“I have a small bit of hope left, but we’ll see.”