‘Working homeless’: Penticton, B.C. single mother calling for more affordable housing

Click to play video: 'Penticton single mom pleads for affordable housing options'
Penticton single mom pleads for affordable housing options
WATCH: As the cost of living continues to climb, some families just can't get ahead despite working a full-time job. Our Taya Fast has the story of a single mother in Penticton, whose struggle is so difficult she is now struggling just to stay financially afloat – Nov 15, 2022

With the cost of living skyrocketing, some families just can’t get ahead despite working over 40 hours a week.

Kandace Sztepanacz, a single mother of two, says even with a full-time job she is barely making ends meet and fears she and her kids will become homeless.

“All the time, every month, I’m worried that I’m not going to make rent,” said Sztepanacz. “I work hard, I have a great job. So, you know, I shouldn’t be in that position. I am scared my kids and I are going to end up living in our car.”

Sztepanacz has applied for the Rental Assistance Program (RAP) through BC Housing but was denied which she says was because of some overtime hours on her paycheque that BC Housing took as her regular income.

“They need to reevaluate what this low-income gap is. Because as a single parent, you know, I pull in under that 40,000, take home. I’m not making that much,” said Sztepanacz.

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According to BC Housing, RAP provides eligible low-income working families with assistance with their monthly rent payments in the private market. To establish income and eligibility for RAP, the organization reviews the previous year’s income tax return.

“Income must be below $40,000 annually or $3,333.33 monthly. Some of the annual income must come from employment and families must have at least one dependent,” read the BC Housing statement.

“In 2018 the BC Government expanded eligibility for the RAP by raising the qualifying income ceiling from $35,000 to $40,000. BC Housing recognizes that living costs are increasing and many low-income working families rely on RAP and, for this reason, the program will be reviewed within the next year.”

BC Housing is currently supporting 585 Penticton households in the private rental market through RAP and the Shelter Aid for Elderly Renters program.

Meanwhile, unable to stay with family or friends, Sztepanacz has been unable to find other options like getting a roommate or a moving into a cheaper place.

“There needs to be, you know, a rental cap,” said Sztepanacz.

“More available options for the people who are working but are tight. More rentals that aren’t incredibly expensive. Rentals that allow children, I’m running into that problem a lot.”

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Click to play video: 'Penticton rental crunch'
Penticton rental crunch

Penticton has an extremely low vacancy rate, and the city says they are working to increase supply across the spectrum to alleviate the housing crunch.

“Housing affordability is one of the biggest issues. It comes up all the time when we are talking to our businesses trying to find employees and to average residents about the cost of living,” said Penticton’s director of Development Services, Blake Laven.

“So, we’ve spent a lot of time trying to streamline our development processes, partner with developers to bring projects online quicker. Council has supported many rezoning and development applications over the past few years.”

There are currently 520 units of housing under construction within the city including townhouses, apartments, and single-family homes.

“The hope is that by increasing supply that we’re helping bring down some of those costs,” said Laven.

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“In today’s market there’s so much demand we are not seeing those costs coming down as much as we want to. And those people looking for the larger square footage. For the families and pets it is hard to afford those, but we are trying our best to help improve the situation.”

Read more: City of Penticton looking at short-term rental impact

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According to the city, some new homes could be on the market by the end of the year.

However, in the meantime, Sztepanacz says solutions are needed now, not just for her, but for many others in similar positions.

“When I say working homeless, I mean it. I know people who are working so hard and living in their car. I know so many people, who are in their 40s, who have moved back in with their parents,” she said.

“We’ve worked our whole lives. We should be getting ready to buy a house, but we can’t.”

Click to play video: '“I really, really need a home” Penticton mother pleads for affordable housing'
“I really, really need a home” Penticton mother pleads for affordable housing

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