Skip to content
Join our Newsletter
Join our Newsletter

Capital region’s low-income earners at risk of homelessness, report says

Low-income earners are finding it increasingly difficult to secure affordable housing and are at risk of homelessness even though Greater Victoria’s overall vacancy rates are up, says a report to be released today.
New_a1-chamber-10129.jpg
Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin says vacancy rates are “growing at the more expensive level." TIMES COLONIST/Lyle Stafford

Low-income earners are finding it increasingly difficult to secure affordable housing and are at risk of homelessness even though Greater Victoria’s overall vacancy rates are up, says a report to be released today.

“The living wage for families is just over $18 per hour, making it hard for low-income families to have enough money to meet the costs of living. Similarly, many singles on social assistance or earning minimum wage would find it difficult to pay market rent and meet other expenses,” says the report titled Facing Homelessness.

The report, prepared by the Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness in conjunction with the Centre for Addictions Research of B.C., says that many people in the Capital Region are at risk of homelessness.

“Although the vacancy rate is growing, it’s growing at the more expensive level,” said Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin, co-chairman of the coalition.

About 27 per cent of renters in Greater Victoria are considered to be in core housing need — unable to find accommodation that does not cost more than 30 per cent of their income.

A further 10.9 per cent are said to be in severe housing need — spending more than 50 per cent of their income on housing.

Greater Victoria’s vacancy rate is at its highest point in seven years at 2.8 per cent, and on par with both the provincial and federal rates.

The report recommends increasing the number of homeless outreach program rental supplements; revisiting criteria for rental assistance programs to broaden their reach; increasing the number of subsidized housing units and assessing the needs of youths and families, including aboriginal people experiencing homelessness.

On a positive note, Fortin said great strides have been made in bringing an end to street homelessness in the capital region.

Fortin said that in 2008 a task force estimated there were 1,200 homeless in Greater Victoria and about 1,500 affordable and supportive units were needed.

“Over the past five years, the coalition, working with our partners, have created more than 750 units of housing — about 250 units of supportive housing and about 500 units of affordable housing. Over and above that, we’ve also done streets-to-homes rent subsidies,” Fortin said.

“The good news that’s coming out of that is we are 250 units of supportive housing from being done dealing with street homelessness.”

However a coalition white paper, released this week, suggests the region needs at least 1,500 more units of non-market and low market affordable housing.

“Those are to stop the next crop or the next wave of homelessness coming in,” Fortin said.

“It’s actually kind of exciting to think we are at a manageable level and that we can accomplish our goal of ending homelessness.”

Housing facts and figures

  • Vacancy rates are higher outside the City of Victoria, in neighbouring municipalities where there are fewer services and fewer rentals. And, finding anything to rent that costs in the $700-a-month range can be extremely challenging.
  • The overall vacancy rate for a bachelor suite is 1.3 per cent, but for those suites renting for less than $700 a month, it is
  • 0.9 per cent. For a one- or two-bedroom suite, the overall vacancy rate is 2.9 per cent, but is only one per cent for a one-bedroom that rents at less than $700 a month and there are no two-bedroom suites renting for less than $700.
  • While all rents in all categories increased from 2011 to 2012, the rent for bachelor apartments increased the most. And in 2012, Victoria’s average rent of $695 a month for a bachelor apartment was among the most expensive in the country

bcleverley@timescolonist.com