Chinna Reddy Katireddy (right), managing director of Macropus Homes, is working hard to help find Mitch Lowry (left), one of his employees, a rental apartment in the area. (Robert Barron/Citizen)

Chinna Reddy Katireddy (right), managing director of Macropus Homes, is working hard to help find Mitch Lowry (left), one of his employees, a rental apartment in the area. (Robert Barron/Citizen)

QUINN’S QUIPS: Rental crisis strikes nerve with readers

The article resonated with me too

An article about the rental crunch on Vancouver Island forcing a construction worker to sleep in his truck really struck a nerve with our readers on the weekend.

The article came from our sister paper the Cowichan Valley Citizen and told the tale of the managing director of a company that builds houses discovering one of his construction contractors was living in his truck because he couldn’t find an affordable rental nor space to park his 18-foot trailer. He hoped to find a house or apartment with a couple of rooms because he shares custody of his three children with his ex-wife, but they were all several hundred dollars more expensive than his budget would permit.

The article resonated with me too.

Someone I know has spent the past two months looking for an affordable place to rent in the Alberni Valley. His landlord is moving back into the home he was renting and although he was given several weeks’ notice, he has found it difficult to find something that he can afford. Whenever he finds an affordable listing, he discovers he is but one of dozens of people who have applied for the same vacancy.

Complicating the matter are the tools he needs to keep secure in order to do his construction-related job.

He has also contemplated sleeping in his truck, but has so far managed to avoid it.

Someone else I know managed to find a rental two years ago, and had hoped to move into something larger, but that is proving a challenge. Two years ago it was difficult to find a rental in a competitive market—“now it’s impossible,” she said.

I was talking to a relative newcomer to Port Alberni who moved here from Victoria for work. It took her months to find somewhere to rent.

From the comments people were leaving in response to the story, these situations are not the exception. One person said they have been living in their van for 19 months, and that the place where they had been parked the day they commented there were five other vehicle dwellers in the same place.

Another said a single mother on disability is forced to live in a motel because she can’t find a one-bedroom rental anywhere. Others said they were forced to change their lifestyle (i.e. no more pets) or move away from the Alberni Valley and Vancouver Island to find cheaper rent elsewhere.

Admittedly, I own my own home and have not had to find a rental for well over a decade. I remember the stress of having to find somewhere to live before then, and it was nothing like it is now.

Consideration of what that will continue to do to housing and how to solve it has not kept up.

Some readers suggested more government-sponsored co-op housing would be a stopgap solution. The provincial government in 2019 announced it would curb speculative demand in B.C.’s housing market with a variety of methods, and invest more than $7 billion over the next 10 years to help build affordable housing and owner-purchase housing. More money was to be invested in a plan to build affordable rental homes for low- to middle-income earners including those on fixed incomes, like seniors.

The coronavirus pandemic threw a wrench into some of those plans. I’m sure the rising cost of construction materials will only add to the pain.

Now consider the number of people in our province who are displaced due to wildfires last summer and flooding this fall. Where are they going to live? I wish I had the answer.

Susie Quinn is the Alberni Valley News editor.

Alberni ValleyConstructionPort Albernirental market