When I moved to Squamish, my expectations for finding housing weren’t high. Some of my friends have lived in the Sea to Sky for years, so I’d heard horror stories about less-than-ideal accommodations (and the high price tag they come with).
There’s the friend who moved into a literal closet for $1,000 a month, another who was asked to leave within 24 hours for seemingly no reason, and one whose landlord replaced the hot water tank with a much, much smaller one but hiked the rent at the same time. None had the added stress of finding suitable housing for a family or something pet-friendly.
To my surprise, finding a reasonably priced room in a nice neighbourhood didn’t take me long, and I moved in with the first roommates I met. It was, in a word, easy.
When I recently decided to find another place to live within Squamish, it hit me just how lucky I had been. First, there’s the astronomical rents. After living in student-like housing (read: cheap, lots of roommates, scant on comforts) since I moved out of my parents’ house, I figured it was time to find a ‘grown-up’ place to live. But even with a full-time job and some side hustles, calculating what I could afford locally didn’t give me much hope.
The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation defines affordable housing as less than 30% of before-tax income.
The Canadian Encyclopedia shows, across the country, 40% of renters pay more than 30% of their income on rent. Nearly 18% of renters spend more than half their income on rent, and around 8% spend upwards of 80%.
According to the Rental Housing Index, numbers are even higher in Squamish, with 43% spending more than 30% and 21% spending more than 50%. And those percentages increase for people with kids — and especially single mothers.
The numbers often make me wonder how many of us are a paycheque or two away from not being able to afford rent? How many of us are close to becoming homeless if things should take a turn for the worse? Probably a lot more than we’d like to believe.
When the unit below mine became a short-term rental during the summer, I tried to find it online. I was curious what the other unit looked like, and what price it was on a nightly basis.
I can understand a homeowner offering part of a property as a nightly rental — surely we could all use a little more income. But as a renter, it can be discouraging to go online and see all the beautiful nearby accommodations — reserved for someone else.
It’s hard to tell just how much of an impact the lack of affordable housing has had on our community.
For me, and many in Squamish, the dream of owning my own place is just that — a dream. For now, I’ve found a rental that I feel lucky to have.
But luck should have nothing to do with it.