Vancouver’s rent isn’t cheap. If that’s news to you, then you probably haven’t heard a single news story out of western Canada in the last few years. The issue of affordability in the city has gotten bad enough that it became one of the most important issues in both the recent provincial election, and the provincial budget. One of the ways the new budget aimed to help those struggling to find housing is a program incentivizing businesses to build affordable housing around the city.
And that honestly sounds like a pretty good idea, but, in practice, it’s not working out so hot. When the guidelines around the incentive program were published, it was revealed that the city officials believe that an “affordable” rate for a one bedroom apartment is $1,730. That means that, theoretically, apartments built to combat high housing costs will run you nearly two grand a month.
To get an idea of how people are reacting to that judgement, we asked some young people whether $1,730 sounds like an affordable rent to them, and what they’d need to do to be able to pay it.
VICE: So the city recently came out with some guidelines, that labeled $1,730 as the affordable level for rent of a one bedroom apartment…
Trevor: That’s fucking crazy.
Why do you say that?
That’s almost two thousand dollars for… that’s ridiculous. Living in Vancouver is ridiculous right now. I know people living in eight person houses with strangers so they can keep their rent down, paying like $650. It’s hella sketchy. I think Vancouver’s crazy. This is by far one of the craziest cities rent-wise in the world.
Is there any way you could afford $1,730 in rent every month?
Jesus… I have no idea. If I did, I’d be making it. Probably work multiple jobs, still depending on your parents a little bit until you’re like 25, and I think that’s just where we’re going right now which is really unfortunate if you want to live in Vancouver. I wish I knew though.
Have you had to give things up, or not been able to afford basic things to live in Vancouver?
Oh for sure. I’ve eaten like, stacks of ramen in the past. Sometimes I’ve pushed laundry to the end of the month. Just small things like that to make ends meet. Food’s also crazy expensive, something that people don’t mention enough. Eating out is ridiculous.
Do you have anything that you’d like to say to people that think $1,730 for a one bedroom apartment is affordable?
Calm down! Like, who honestly can afford that? That’s insane… Vancouver needs to calm the hell down. I really don’t have anything else to say to them other than that’s just insane. I don’t know who’s their primary target market for that, but people cannot afford that. $1,700 is insane.
VICE: Have you heard about the guidelines the city just released, saying that $1,730 is affordable for a one bedroom apartment?
Dimitri: I would say that’s pretty in line with what the prices are right now yeah. It’s so terrible because since 2013 it’s gone up by like $400.
Do you think that’s really affordable for most people?
OK, so let’s say that the official information is that thirty percent of your income is supposed to go to rent. That’s affordable. If you’re paying $1,700, you would be have to be making over $4,000 per month to afford that, right? The average salary in Vancouver, for someone with graduate school living in downtown Vancouver, they’re not making more than 45k, and that’s before tax. After tax, you’re making two grand, $2,250 maybe? So you’re left with like three hundred bucks after paying your rent. Now you’re getting to 50 percent of your income going towards rent. That’s what I’m paying right now with a part-time job, I’d be doing the same thing if I went to a one bedroom. So hell no, I’m not going to afford that.
Is there anything you’d like to say to the city?
More social housing please? Don’t put them in those weird random places for starters. Social housing definitely, that’s my issue.
VICE: Would you be able to afford $1,730 in rent?
Lindsey: [Laughs] Nope!
Is there anything you’ve had to go without to pay your rent as it is already?
I think for a lot of us we’re still on mostly our parents money, so for us it’s OK. But once you move along further, past university, it’s definitely a problem. That’s why I’m considering moving back home just because of not being able to afford the lifestyle after graduation. People have to generally live out in like Burnaby and commute. Or share. Roommates for life, yo.
So do you think the city has just totally missed the mark?
At this point there’s not much the city can do, because all the redevelopment is crazy. It’s driving the prices up like crazy. It’s like social housing, but urban development are making the areas more like public hubs, and more amenities are coming into play as well, so everything is just going to drive up the rents.
Some of the increased taxes they’ve introduced are definitely a good thing at least. Even though there are people complaining, like ‘Oh I can’t afford my house in Victoria anymore’ [laughs]. All that shit, it’s kind of bullshit.
What would you have to do to be able to afford rent here?
Make a tech startup and sell it for five million in a couple years, and then try and make your life then.
Does $1,730 sound like a realistic amount for rent?
Katie: I pay something close to that right now, and it’s definitely not affordable for me. I pay around $1,100 for a two bedroom, but my roommate obviously pays the other half. So for a one bedroom at $1,700… that sounds like a lot.
What would you have to do to be able to afford that every month?
I don’t know. I know one of my professors, she’s a contract professor, and she couldn’t even afford a one bedroom apartment here, so she had to leave. She didn’t make enough money as a professor. So, I cannot imagine what you’d have to do, you’d have to have… I don’t know. I have no idea.
What would you say to someone who thought $1,700 in rent was normal?
That it just sounds a little crazy to me.
Does $1,730 sound like a reasonable or affordable amount for rent?
Tegan: No, I don’t like that [laughs]. That’s bad.
What would you have to do to afford that?
Get a job and not be in school probably?
Is there anything you’d like to say to a city that thinks $1,730 is affordable for monthly rent?
I think it’s just… kind of losing the conception of what the city actually is, and just making it a collection of properties and real estate, rather than a thing which people should have access to. It’s sacrificing culture, and a city is so much more than just a collection of properties.
I think that when a city makes a statement like this, it’s sending a message to people that can’t afford that that they’re doing something wrong.
Does that sound like it’s affordable to you?
Sarah: No. I’m a grad student so I don’t actually work right now, but no it’s not affordable at all. But I mean at least I’m able to live here by getting help from my parents.
What do you think the average person would have to do to be able to afford $1,700 for an apartment?
I honestly don’t know. If I didn’t get help from my parents or if I wasn’t on loans I wouldn’t be able to afford an apartment like that. I’d be priced out of Vancouver.
Aren’t high prices already kind of forcing people to go without some essential things?
Oh yeah. Food, cars, lots of people don’t have cars anymore even if they do live far. Textbooks, not everyone can afford textbooks… just a lot of things I guess.
Is there anything you’d like to say to the city?
Well, just… take a look at your minimum wage. I guess that’s all I’d have to say to them.
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