Rising rents, lack of available units and a near-zero vacancy rate in 100 Mile House are taking a toll on residents in the South Cariboo community.
The situation has become so desperate that J. Brondijk isn’t sure where she is going to sleep next month. She and neighbour were given notice in January that they would have to vacate their units in a 100 Mile four-plex by April 1 as the new owners want to move in.
“They want my unit so now I’m out again,” Brondijk said.
She is not alone. About 20 people in 100 Mile House are currently receiving or have been offered housing support in the last year, according to the Canadian Mental Health Association South Cariboo.
Marnie Jensen, an outreach worker with CMHA, said more people have been displaced in recent years, particularly following the 2017 wildfires when many homeowners sold their rental properties or moved into them themselves.
COVID-19 exacerbated the situation, she said, as more people from the Lower Mainland are buying up cheaper properties in rural areas like the South Cariboo.
This is led to a rise in both house prices rents, putting more pressure on the community’s vulnerable population. She noted those on social assistance can’t afford the high rentals, with even single rooms in 100 Mile now going for $500 to $750.
According to Statistics Canada, the median income for people in 100 Mile House in 2016 - the latest year for such stats - was $43,136 per year.
“It makes it very hard,” Jensen said, adding there are no apartments available anymore for $750. “If you’re just a roommate or renting a room you don’t have the same security or tenants’ rights. It’s very tenuous.”
Brondijk has struggled to find housing in the South Cariboo over the past 20 years. She previously lived at the Parkview Apartments for 12 years, but found herself homeless for nine months before moving into the four-plex. She’s now worried she might be on the streets again.
The owners of Brondijk’s building did not return repeated requests for an interview.
However, there is nothing legally stopping them from moving into the building, as long as they do so in good faith, according to a spokesperson with the Ministry of the Attorney General’s office.
The spokesperson said the government made changes last year to put the onus on landlords to “act in good faith” if they plan to end a tenancy for a landlord’s use, meaning they must honestly intend to use the rental unit for the purposes stated on the Notice to End Tenancy (NTE) for at least six months.
“If a tenant accepts the NTE in good faith, they are entitled to compensation from the landlord equivalent to one month’s rent and must vacate the unit by the effective date of the notice.”
Brondijk’s neighbour Paula E., who asked that her last name not be used, said it still hurts as a renter to have to leave the home she’s had for the past 20 years.
Largely housebound due to spinal sclerosis, Paula said she wasn’t able to find anything available in 100 Mile House and is now moving to the Clinton Creek Estates senior’s facility. Packing up her belongings has been an emotional process.
“I can’t really blame the new owners because years ago there was a big surge of people buying low and selling high down on the Coast,” Paula, 73, said. “The same thing happened then, that’s happening now. People sold their houses for more than they’d ever thought they would and come into the Interior and buy up cheap properties.”
Paula said there should be more affordable housing built in B.C.’s Interior. It’s her view that homeless encampments in places like Vancouver get attention and government resources, while the lack of affordable housing in the South Cariboo is largely ignored.
“I don’t think they care past Boston Bar about what does go on,” Paula said. “I’d like them to build more low-income housing, or homes for pensioners, but I know that’s not going to all happen by the end of the month.”
The last time rental units were constructed in 100 Mile House was in 2010 when B.C Housing built housing on Aspen Street near Pioneer Haven.
100 Mile District Mayor Mitch Campsall agreed there is a need for all levels of housing in the community.
He said he is in talks with the province to get more affordable housing built in 100 Mile, while also working with several companies to promote housing development in the community.
“We’ll work with them and speed up everything we can to get them done,” Campsall said. “I know that staff, council and myself are working every angle we can to get housing.”
Joanne Doddridge, the district’s director of economic development and planning, agreed there is an “extremely limited” availability of housing, especially rental units. The district is working on a housing needs assessment in partnership with the Cariboo Regional District. It’s now in the final draft stages.
“It will not only give us the data on housing in town and in the South Cariboo, but also some analysis of the current and future housing situation, as well as recommendations for addressing some of the area’s housing challenges,” Doddridge said.
B.C. Housing said providing housing for homeless people and those without stable housing is a top priority.
They have secured 10 rooms funded through the Province’s COVID-19 Action Plan to provide spaces for the vulnerable to shelter. They have also recently purchased and refurbished 33 affordable rental units at 440 Cedar Avenue.
“Because many people without stable housing in 100 Mile House often move between short-term stays indoors and sheltering on the streets, it is difficult to provide an estimate of the number of people experiencing homelessness in the community,” B.C. Housing said.
100 Mile House doesn’t currently have a homeless shelter, but Campsall said the district is working with the province and the Cariboo Family Enrichment Centre to establish one. 100 Mile doesn’t have the funds or capability to do it on its own, he added.
“We will work with the province to secure any type of housing we can,” Campsall said.
Jensen noted that even if there was housing available, it would likely be double what Brondijk and Paula were paying.
“It’s so disheartening,” she said. “People phone us and want help and we have no good news for them.”