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Lack of affordable housing on Vancouver Island forces family to sleep in a tent and a van

Sep 27, 2019

Ottawa (Canada) Sept 27: Jagmeet Singh learned first-hand Thursday about the affordable housing crunch, when a weeping Betty Nicolaye came to his campaign event to tell him that she and her family were living in a backyard because they couldn't find rental accommodations.
The NDP leader called her story heartbreaking.
Nicolaye says she sleeps in a tent and her three children live in a beat-up motor home in a family member's yard, because her family can't find an affordable place to live in Campbell River, B.C.
The 69-year-old has been searching for a house to rent since April, after her landlord put the home where she was living up for sale. She says it went right away, because "houses are selling like hotcakes right now."
Nicolaye and her husband live on a pension and have applied for dozens of homes, but the wait lists are long.
"They keep telling us there's 80 people after the same house," she said. "It's hard. It's harder being the mom because you're trying to be the tough person."
So every day, Nicolaye and her adult children pack up their belongings to keep them dry and stow them in their van. They drive to a nearby gas station and pay $1 to take a shower and use the washroom. Her son, who has a disability, is having the hardest time, she said.
"He's suffered a lot," she said. "Cooking is hard, having a shower is hard, going to the washroom is hard."
Nicolaye says she has lived in Campbell River on the eastern shore of Vancouver Island for 30 years and only in the last two, with the spike in house prices, has renting become such a challenge.
The average rent for a two-bedroom home here was $833 in 2018, according to CMHC. Nicolaye's budget is $3,000 a month, but she hasn't been able to find a suitable place in that price range.
All the motels she's called say they can only accommodate two people in a room, not five. But her family can't afford multiple rooms, she said. Her two children are janitors and her son is on disability because he has trouble talking.
'Heartbreaking'
A local indigenous group, Sasamans Society, encouraged her to attend Singh's housing announcement and share her story. After the event, she wiped away tears while speaking to Singh.
"I don't know how anyone could hear that story and not be heartbroken," Singh told CBC News afterwards. "What struck me is what she said - if it was just me I'd be OK - but she had kids. That's what hit me. That's why we need to tackle housing."
Earlier, Singh had announced a rental benefit of up to $5,000 per household for for families who need it most. The party says the $1.8 billion program could help as many as 500,000 people, although it will work with the provinces to decide on eligibility and how the money will be doled out.
The party's platform also includes a pledge to build 500,000 affordable homes over the next 10 years.
Source: CBC News