“So what’s the rent?”
City Conversation #99: It seems to be more of a struggle than it should be to find out what is the “affordable” rent in a new Vancouver building.
January 31st 2022—Real life frustrations trying to figure out the true cost of rental housing.
The Pearson Dogwood site where Jane is looking for modest rental accommodation
“So what’s the rent?” Jane asked for the umpteenth time. This was her eighth email exchange on the subject over an eight day period.
Jane (not her real name to prevent her being blacklisted) has rented the same apartment for more than 20 years, but is about to be demovicted—that’s where a tenant is evicted because their apartment building is being demolished for redevelopment.
Now, the building Jane lives in is operated by a so-called “nonprofit” organization—except it’s demolishing her serviceable 35-year old building to replace it with more, smaller apartments for which future tenants will be charged much more rent for much smaller spaces. That appears to be okay with city staff as her home falls just outside the Broadway Plan boundaries that are supposed to provide a greater degree of renter protection and compensation.
Jane is single, working but not wealthy, so all of this matters. It just doesn’t seem to matter to her nonprofit landlord, nor to local and provincial governments. Not to her nonprofit landlord, which has been trying to get her and the remaining tenants out the door for well over a year (it’s cheaper for the landlord if they just leave), without incentives or other forms of assistance. Not to the city of Vancouver, which granted permission to redevelop without any substantive relocation assistance to existing tenants or assistance in finding comparable accommodation elsewhere. Not to the province, which just wants more housing—although it has recently offered $500 million of taxpayer money to allow nonprofits to buy existing buildings in the Broadway Plan area, even where, as in Jane’s case, they continue to demolish serviceable buildings they already own elsewhere in the city.
So Jane is looking for a new home to rent in Vancouver. Upon reading the recent announcement of the impending opening of what is billed as affordable rental housing at the Pearson Dogwood site at 57th & Cambie, she contacted the operating nonprofit (different from the one where she currently lives) with the questions on any renter’s mind: “What’s available? How big is it?” and most important: “What’s the rent?”
I’ve re-read the email string she shared with me several times now, with breaks between to deal with the resulting headache. My synopsis (edited for brevity):Continue reading