A Vernon, B.C., woman is sharing her struggle finding rental housing and hoping to raise awareness of the challenges in the local rental market, as well as how pricy and limited the options are.
Governments have been creating new units, but with the region’s housing market hot and the area growing, the investments so far haven’t been enough to eliminate the housing crunch.
Mary Ellen Wuori said she looks daily for rental listings but has found the options limited and that “have escalated beyond belief.”
Wuori, who asked Global News to use her maiden name due to concerns about news coverage impacting her employment, currently pays $1,750 for a 1940s-era home in Vernon’s East Hill neighbourhood.
However, the house was sold last year and the new owners want to move in at the start of April.
Wuori has expanded her search well beyond Vernon and now expects to have to stretch her budget to $2,500 or $2,700 to find a two-bedroom place, with a yard.
“I quite literally have plans, if I can’t find anything March 31, to sleep in my car. I will not give up my animals. That’s the worst-case scenario,” she said.
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Wuori is also looking at the possibility of staying with friends or family if she can’t find a new place in the next six weeks.
Her story speaks to a wider problem with a lack of available rentals, according to a Vernon non-profit.
Randene Wejr, the executive director of Turning Points Collaborative Society, said the hot housing market is leading to some rental units being sold and leaving the rental pool as new owners move in.
“We are finding it extremely difficult to find places for people. We are now seeing one bedroom in a home that’s a share going for $900 or $1,000 just for a bedroom and a shared kitchen and bathroom,” Wejr said.
“We are also seeing that families and seniors are coming to our services way more than they used to in the past. Families are now having to choose to live in motels or live in RVs full time.”
Wejr said the rental situation in Vernon has changed in recent years, getting more expensive and putting pressure on those who can least afford it.
“People who are middle-income now are having to rent places that are not big enough for their families. They don’t have an option so they then rent something for that $1200-1400 range for a one-bedroom that’s completely not suitable for families, and then the person who used to be able to afford a one-bedroom or a studio, they can’t any longer,” Wejr said.
Both the city and Vernon-Monashee MLA Harwinder Sandhu said housing is a high priority.
According to Sandhu, among other initiatives, the province has big B.C.-wide spending commitments on the file.
“We’re investing $7 billion over 10 years to build 114,000 affordable homes. Already we have 32,000 being built or well underway,” Sandhu said.
So far that provincial effort to boost the housing stock has included 460 units built or underway in the Vernon riding since December 2017, Sandhu’s office said.
“I will continue to do what I can in order to highlight the need for housing and affordable housing…. that we get our fair share in the Vernon- Monashee area,” Sandhu said.
From Wuori’s experience, more needs to be done and she’s encouraging all levels of government to think outside the box and act quickly.