In 12 days, Kandi Kehler and her two sons have to move out of their home, and they have nowhere to go.
If things don’t work out for the family, they’ll be the newest Campbell Riverites to be facing the difficult life of homelessness.
“Most people are only one paycheque away from homelessness,” she said, sitting down in her kitchen among the boxes and packing material holding most of her possessions.
Kehler has lived in Campbell River for most of her life, she has raised her two sons here and until five years ago held multiple steady jobs in the community. After health issues left her on disability, she was still able to manage rent and groceries for her family. That is until she received a notice from her landlord two months ago, informing her she had to move out.
That clock has now run down to under two weeks, and Kehler still has not found a place to live.
“Places are going in 15-20 minutes online. As soon as they’re listed they’re gone,” she said. “I’ve phoned every hotel and cabin in town for a monthly rental, but since it’s summer now, none of them are doing that. Now we’re looking at 550 weekly to stay in a hotel, plus 350 monthly for storage for my entire house. Then still trying to have money to try and secure a place. It’s looking really bleak.”
Campbell River is only one of many communities in Canada that have this kind of rental crisis. According to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), Campbell River has a 0.7 per cent vacancy rate — last calculated in October 2020. A higher vacancy rate means there are more rentals available. By comparison, the provincial vacancy rate was 2.4 per cent, Victoria is 2.2 per cent and Vancouver is 2.6 per cent. The CMHC report also lists rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Campbell River as $1,148 on average, but Kehler says that it has gone up even since then.
“Most places are $2,000 and up, and now I’m only paying $1,222, so that’s like an $800 increase,” she said. “I feel like I’m beating my head against the wall and getting nowhere. I don’t know what to do, I’m absolutely lost.”
Kehler has considered finding a place in other communities, but does not want to force her son to move away as he goes into his graduation year.
“He’s gone to school with his buddies from Kindergarten to grade 11, and I am not making him take his grad year somewhere else,” she said. “I’ve applied for Sayward, Quadra, Black Creek, Merville, all over. There’s just nothing.”
The need for increased housing has been acknowledged across the board in Campbell River. The City of Campbell River’s 2020 Housing Needs report showed 339 new units were needed in the city last year, and 1,378 are required over the next five years.
“Going forward… it will be important to shift towards the development of land at higher densities and with greater housing variety,” the report reads. “Secondary suites and carriage houses can provide a viable option.”
The city is currently working on a housing growth review, which will give more information on the needs of the community.
However, Kehler is going to have to find something quickly to make things work. People who know of a rental opportunity can contact Kehler on Facebook.
“I’ve been a single mom for 16 years. My biggest fear has always been that I could not feed my kids or house my kids. One of those fears are coming to life,” she said. “I know this isn’t going to solve anything. More awareness is definitely needed.
“I know I’m not the only one.”