Renters feeling the pinch

Affordability issues and cramped living arrangements brought to light by new data

Too many people in the Campbell River area are paying too much of their income to landlords and utilities companies.

That’s according to a recent study done by the BC Non-Profit Housing Association (BCNPHA), who gathered census data and compiled it into an online database to shed light on the current housing situation in the province.

The study says that housing is “typically considered affordable if a household spends 30 per cent or less of its before-tax income on rent and utilities.”

But of the 4,240 rental households in the Strathcona region, almost half (46 per cent) pay more than 30 per cent of their income just to live inside and keep the power on.

Almost a quarter of them (24 per cent) are paying more than half of their pre-tax income for the same privilege.

355 two-bedroom renter households earn less than $17,515 and pay more than half of their income on rent, according to the study. Those households would need to more than double their total household income in order to get their ratio down to below the 30 per cent threshold that would qualify their living situation as “affordable.”

In Campbell River, renter households earning less than $17,590 living in two-bedroom units pay an average of 77 per cent of their income on rent and utilities.

Affordability is not the only problem the study highlights, however.

In the Strathcona region, according to the study, 205 renter households are also living in dwellings that are too small for their household size and composition, based on the National Occupancy Standard set by the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC).

The CMHC standard states that suitable housing has enough bedrooms for the size and make-up of resident households as long as there is one bedroom for each cohabiting adult couple, each lone parent, each unattached household member over the age of 18, each same-sex pair of children under the age of 18 and each additional boy or girl in the family, “unless there are two opposite sex children under five years of age, in which case they are expected to share a bedroom.”

225 more bedrooms are needed in rental properties in the Strathcona region to  comfortably accommodate the number of renters here, based on this definition. 215 of those would need to be in Campbell River itself, where 190 of those overcrowded renter households are.

“This is a chance to look at the province through the eyes of renters,” Executive Director of BCNPHA Tony Roy said of the data. “Many know their rent is too high, but feel like they don’t have a choice but to pay up. We’re not building more rental housing, so renters are forced to overspend, living in overcrowded or deteriorated conditions, or they become homeless.

“It’s a shame because it’s far cheaper to plan for more rental housing than to deal with the huge costs linked to homelessness, on the health and justice systems.

“If we don’t invest in affordable housing today, we end up paying a much higher price down the road.”

The study and its results can be found at bcnpha.ca/rhi