Hot mar­ket leaves se­niors strug­gling to pay bills

Van­cou­ver renters over 65 are nu­mer­ous — and their spe­cial needs are not be­ing met

Vancouver Sun - - NEWS - DAN FUMANO dfu­[email protected]­media.com Twit­ter.com/fumano

The last few weeks have been some of the most stress­ful times of Chris­tine Weltscheff ’s re­tire­ment.

Weltscheff, 71, is among the se­niors liv­ing in a Kit­si­lano apart­ment build­ing where res­i­dents re­cently re­ported feel­ing pres­sured to leave their homes af­ter new land­lords took over in Septem­ber.

Within days of the build­ing ’s long­time owners sell­ing to a com­pany con­nected to lo­cal prop­erty man­age­ment firm VS Rentals, the new land­lords de­liv­ered writ­ten buy­out of­fers to ev­ery ten­ant, urg­ing them to ac­cept a cash pay­out, end their ten­an­cies, and move out of their homes to al­low for ren­o­va­tions.

There was no men­tion of the pos­si­bil­ity of evic­tion. But the worry lin­gered, Weltscheff said, that an evic­tion no­tice would come at some point. She knew ten­ants at other Van­cou­ver build­ings owned by the same land­lords had re­cently bat­tled evic­tion at­tempts.

Weltscheff never con­sid­ered the buy­out a vi­able op­tion. Even with an ex­tra $5,000, she said, if she had to find a new home noth­ing in the city would be close to af­ford­able as rents have soared dur­ing the 11 years she’s lived in her cur­rent home.

“As it is, I’m spend­ing more than 50 per cent of my pen­sion on rent,” Weltscheff said this week. “I have health is­sues. I can­not af­ford to be home­less, I can­not af­ford the stress all this has caused me . ... Where am I sup­posed to go?”

Af­ter sev­eral un­easy weeks, Weltscheff and her neigh­bours re­ceived pos­i­tive news, as the land­lords re­cently told The Van­cou­ver Sun that they would al­low ten­ants to re­main in their homes.

Then, on Tues­day, Van­cou­ver coun­cil unan­i­mously sup­ported a mo­tion in­tended to pro­tect ten­ants from “ren­ovic­tions and ag­gres­sive buy­outs,” a move one ten­ants’ ad­vo­cate ac­claimed as “an in­cred­i­ble win for lit­er­ally half the pop­u­la­tion,” re­fer­ring to the por­tion of Van­cou­verites who rent.

But chal­lenges like those faced by Weltscheff are dis­turbingly com­mon for older Van­cou­ver ten­ants — and, data shows, as ten­ants con­tinue to age, the sit­u­a­tion only gets worse.

Van­cou­ver renters over age 65 are sig­nif­i­cantly more likely than younger renters to face what Statis­tics Canada calls “core hous­ing need,” ac­cord­ing to a new anal­y­sis of cen­sus data by Andy Yan, di­rec­tor of Si­mon Fraser Univer­sity’s City Pro­gram.

These chal­lenges on “hous­ing suit­abil­ity, ad­e­quacy or af­ford­abil­ity” could mean cram­ming mul­ti­ple ten­ants into a bach­e­lor suite, fac­ing dis­place­ment by mould or ren­ovic­tion, or spend­ing most of one’s in­come — or pen­sion — on hous­ing costs. The ef­fects of dis­place­ment — such as a ren­ovic­tion — can be es­pe­cially dev­as­tat­ing for this vul­ner­a­ble pop­u­la­tion.

While some might think of renters as younger peo­ple who haven’t yet bought a home, cen­sus data shows renters make up a sig­nif­i­cant por­tion — roughly a third — of Van­cou­ver se­niors.

Yan’s anal­y­sis of StatsCan cen­sus data on hous­ing ten­ure and pri­mary house­hold main­tain­ers shows that, in ev­ery age cat­e­gory over 25, renters are more likely to face core hous­ing needs than home­own­ers.

But the gap widens dra­mat­i­cally with age: as Van­cou­ver renters get older, they’re sig­nif­i­cantly more likely to ex­pe­ri­ence sub­stan­dard hous­ing, cen­sus fig­ures show, while older home­own­ers are more sta­ble and se­cure than younger home­own­ers. While renters be­tween the ages of 35 and 44 are 20-per-cent more likely to face sub­stan­dard hous­ing than home­own­ers of the same age, renters be­tween 65 and 74 are 124 per cent more likely to be in core hous­ing need than home­own­ers of the same age.

For all Van­cou­ver renters over the age of 65, al­most 60 per cent of them face core hous­ing needs.

“I think these hous­ing num­bers, par­tic­u­larly for se­niors who rent, show how ag­ing in Van­cou­ver is in­creas­ingly pre­car­i­ous,” Yan said.

“Ag­ing brings new lev­els of pre­car­i­ous­ness for Van­cou­ver renters.”

With Van­cou­ver’s hous­ing prices be­ing what they are, it seems likely that a grow­ing por­tion of the city’s pop­u­la­tion will be life­long renters. Com­bin­ing that trend with the re­gion’s ag­ing pop­u­la­tion, we might ex­pect the num­ber of se­nior renters to grow, too.

Yan has pre­vi­ously warned of what he has called a “grey tsunami” on the hori­zon for Van­cou­ver and B.C. In a Res­o­nance Con­sul­tancy re­port last year ti­tled The Fu­ture of B.C. Hous­ing, Yan wrote of “a prov­ince headed into un­charted de­mo­graphic ter­ri­tory, with an ag­ing tsunami bar­relling to­ward in­fra­struc­ture and hous­ing ill-pre­pared for it.”

The por­tion of Metro Van­cou­ver’s pop­u­la­tion who are se­niors is set to go from 15 per cent in 2016 to 24 per cent in 2041, the re­port noted.

“We will see a de­mo­graphic mix that is un­prece­dented to any pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tions of Bri­tish Columbians,” Yan said in the re­port.

“On a pro­vin­cial level, 2016 presents an in­flec­tion year where the work­ing pop­u­la­tion sup­ports more peo­ple over the age of 65 than un­der the age of 19 — a pat­tern that has never oc­curred.”

There are many rea­sons it’s cru­cial to con­sider the hous­ing needs of Van­cou­ver’s se­niors, says Yan, and only one of them is the fact that, as he says: “I have an as­pi­ra­tion to be­come one my­self ... One day.”

NICK PROCAYLO

Va­lerie Fa­rina stands out­side her rental apart­ment in Van­cou­ver. Fa­rina is be­ing evicted so the build­ing can un­dergo ren­o­va­tions.

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