Housing

Increase in rental prices leads to a surge of ‘creative’ housing solutions in Victoria

Frustrated tenants are looking outside of the city for affordable housing or considering exploring alternative solutions instead

Housing

Increase in rental prices leads to a surge of ‘creative’ housing solutions in Victoria

Frustrated tenants are looking outside of the city for affordable housing or considering exploring alternative solutions instead

Photo: Dex Ezekiel / Unsplash
Housing

Increase in rental prices leads to a surge of ‘creative’ housing solutions in Victoria

Frustrated tenants are looking outside of the city for affordable housing or considering exploring alternative solutions instead

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Increase in rental prices leads to a surge of ‘creative’ housing solutions in Victoria
Photo: Dex Ezekiel / Unsplash

This article was written based on interviews conducted for the Capital Daily podcast. Listen and subscribe here.

Rental prices are at an all-time high in Victoria, causing many to either leave the city for affordable accommodation or find creative housing alternatives within their means.

According to Rentals.ca, the average price in May for a one-bedroom rental in Victoria was $1,640 per month. It’s a cost that continues to increase month after month even during the pandemic.

A report by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) found that the average apartment rent went up by 3.3% from 2019 to 2020—a much steeper rise in comparison to inflation and the provincially allowable rent increase.

Subsequently, as many opt to leave the city, vacancy rates are the highest they’ve ever been since 2013 at 2.5% in the past year.  

But there are some who stay behind in the hopes of finding creative solutions to the rising rental ruckus.

Guillermo Coleman came to Victoria for the mountains. As a writer and avid rock climber, the city provided him the means to work and also easily access nature.

But the expense of an apartment for the current market price isn’t ideal or necessary for Coleman’s lifestyle.

“I couldn't justify spending average rent prices, because I just wasn't going to be home all day… So, I'm trying to get creative in terms of what I can do,” said Coleman, who suggested an outlandish, but very well-received idea to a Victoria rentals Facebook group.

Instead of having to pay market prices for a barely used rental, Coleman posted in the group looking for a backyard to pitch his tent. His idea sparked conversation and shared frustrations amongst group members about surging rental prices.

The post had almost over 130 comments before it was taken down—likely because municipal bylaws prohibit alternative housing ideas like his own, according to Coleman.

But if legal, he believes this solution would be the best case scenario for him financially and realistically in consideration of his busy lifestyle.

Downsides to creative housing

As a tenant advocate of over five years, Emily Rogers from the Together Against Poverty Society has witnessed the immense changes to Victoria’s housing market.

She believes that these creative housing ideas, while necessary for some folks in the current market, are not exactly solutions.

“It's a creative way to meet your needs in a really unjust situation… I don't think it would be their first choice by any stretch of the imagination. So yes, there's lots of ingenuity in that. I just wish that that wasn't the case,” she said.

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According to Rogers, creative housing can also have major drawbacks like food insecurity due to restricted fridge or storage space. But that’s not the biggest issue to consider.

BC’s Residential Tenancy Act doesn’t cover housing solutions where tenants share a common space with the landlord. This leaves many vulnerable to sudden rent increase or even at risk of being kicked out.

“According to the law, you don't have the protections that the Act provides. The landlord doesn't have to give you any notice; they can just kick you out, they can raise the rent by whatever they want. You are a guest, essentially, and if they decide, at some point, that you're trespassing, that can turn into a really tricky situation very quickly,” Rogers said.

In her eyes, creative housing is not sustainable nor is it long term. Rather, Rogers believes that systemic changes to the housing system are needed to address root causes that are forcing so many to rearrange their lives so drastically.

She expects the situation to get worse over the summer unless vacancy control is brought into place in the city.

Vacancy control is the idea that rent cannot go up when a unit is vacant. Therefore, landlords are unable to increase rent when a tenancy turns over.

“Right now what we're seeing is that, yes, the rent is controlled during the same tenancy. But if that tenant moves out… or if a landlord is successful at evicting that person, they can repost that [unit] at market rate—which can be $500 or $300 more,” Rogers said.

“That's really contributing to the proliferation of inaccessibility and affordability amongst the rental market. Vacancy rates are important to consider, because that element of choice is important so that tenants aren't stuck in undesirable situations and can find something.”

While Rogers hopes for a re-allocation of housing rates and an increase in rental affordability, Coleman shares that he is more inclined to have a creative outlook on his future accommodations.

Whether it’s living in a car or a house, Coleman says he’d rather avoid the stress of maintenance and finances living rent-free in his mind.

“Owning a car, you've got to think about all these things, the repairs, the insurance. Then owning a house, you’ve got to think about more things,” he said. “And to me, that's mental baggage you have to juggle. I really value having space to think.”

For more of our conversation with Guillermo Coleman, listen to our podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

contact@capitaldaily.ca

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