VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – The high price of housing is driving more people onto the streets and creating backlogs at shelters and recovery services according to a new report that finds Metro Vancouver’s affordability crisis is hitting the vulnerable especially hard.
The Union Gospel Mission report — co-authored by University of Victoria addictions researcher Dr. Bernie Pauly — also suggests homelessness is increasingly beyond an individual’s control. “This report shows unaffordability is tipping the scales on homelessness like never before,” says the UGM’s Jeremy Hunka. “It is both pushing people into homelessness and preventing others from exiting homelessness. It’s a double edged sword.”
The report entitled No Vacancy: Affordability and Homelessness in Vancouver uses information from government agencies and other sources to examine the key factors contributing to homelessness, including rental housing vacancy, supply and cost, income and cost of living and social housing supply and demand.
The report finds vacancy rates for most affordable rental units are below one per cent across Metro Vancouver.
In the City of Vancouver, vacancy rates for bachelor units renting at less than $750 a month plummeted from 1.3 per cent in 2014 to 0.1 per cent in 2015 while supply dropped by more than half since 2010.
Meanwhile, shelter occupancy across Metro Vancouver is at 97 per cent. “The crisis means we have to work harder to help fewer people,” says Hunka. “Guests who are otherwise ready to leave UGM shelter or recovery are forced to stay longer as they search for scarce housing. This backlog prevents us from taking new guests into some programs. As a result, we’ve found housing for 36 per cent fewer people this year over last while shelter turn-aways have increased 25 per cent.”
Hunka says the numbers are going in the wrong direction and affordability is a major contributor.
While homelessness is often seen as a big city problem, municipalities like the City of Langley are also struggling to come up with solutions. A tent city was recently dismantled in Nicomekl Park off 208th Avenue south of Fraser Highway and there have been increasing concerns about homeless people entering yards, or being involved in open drug use.
A public forum tonight is aimed at collecting input from the community as politicians look at tackling both short term and long term issues surrounding homelessness.
Langley MLA Mary Polak, Cloverdale-Langley City MP John Aldag, City Mayor Ted Schaffer, and Supt. Murray Power of the RCMP will sit on tonight’s panel at the Cascades Casino ballroom.
Doors for the event open at 6:30 p.m.