For those who are renting in Squamish, rental anxiety is real.
If you have ever tried to find a rental with a reasonable budget in town, chances are you’ve had a challenging time.
For most, there is a constant fear that a landlord will need to renovate and/or sell their home. And if that happens, people are back at square one, posting on the Squamish Facebook pages hoping to get lucky with a response back from a landlord.
The “Whistlerizaton” of Squamish
What has happened? In many ways, we are seeing the “Whistlerization of Squamish” Squamish is becoming a resort town, and a big target for investors, and part-time residents.
For many long-time locals, hearing about desperate rental situations is familiar…but that was Whistler a couple of decades ago. Over the last couple of decades, Whistler has made a serious effort to secure employee housing, but Squamish is far behind. To make matters more challenging, Whistler had two nearby communities – Squamish and Pemberton – where people could move to, and at the cost of a longer commute could secure reasonable rent or even afford to buy a home. Unfortunately, Squamish does not have another Squamish down the road.
The Rental Challenge
Let’s just say the number of people looking for housing on Facebook is alarming. Families are begging to find spaces, people are sharing rooms and paying a lot for what they are getting, and people are staying in toxic relationships to have a roof over their heads. When will it end?
Some Squamish residents are taking matters into their own hands and are living in vans, trailers, cars, and school buses to have somewhere secure. Although this is an alternative, this can cause more issues with people not having places to park.
Sarah Bulford, has lived in Squamish for ten years and has worked locally since moving here. Bulford has moved eleven times in the ten years. The main reason for moving that many times has been her landlord selling their property or moving family in, landlord breaking multiple laws in the tenancy act, or rental cost increases.
“It is no longer easy to find a rental,” Bulford said. “We are often number 30+ on the list of applicants and landlords never want dogs or people who need storage of any kind (even parking). We were not able to find housing after being here for over a decade. And now live out of town in an RV.”
Unfortunately, Sarah’s story is far from unique.
Jess Fossey, a Squamish local, has been living in a van with her partner since 2018. They both work in the community and have said van life has changed drastically over the years.
Fossey said van life is an option for the middle-class workers who can’t find housing or for those who do not want to spend their whole paycheck on housing costs.
“We all know inflation continues to increase, including rent and housing costs. So having a reasonably priced, safe place to park our campervan so we can go to work during the week is essential for middle-class people living similar lifestyles as us to have a chance to progress in today’s society.”
People living in vans in Squamish are having a more challenging time finding spots to park, washrooms and water.
“If you’re lucky, you can find an employer or property owner who will allow you to rent a space,” Fossey said. “Still, it takes immersing yourself in the community to find, which again takes commitment to staying here and being an active member in the Squamish community and workforce. What Squamish needs is more places for this demographic to park safely with basic amenities like; running water, bathrooms, proper garbage and grey water disposal. Sounds cheaper than building a new subsidized condo or townhouse complex, no?”
Some Possible Solutions
Dave Ransier from Responsible Living, a co-living space opening up in early July, took matters into his own hands to bring affordable, secure spaces to Squamish.
Dave has been a developer in Sea to Sky area for years and has seen the issues that came along with housing. Responsible Living offers residents their own private space, washroom, and communal space with a yard, garden, and gym. The house will never get sold, and people will have a secure roof over their heads.
Another option is the Spirit Creek Apartments, bringing 76 new affordable housing units. Although these units will be filled very quickly, the development of a new five-story is geared toward low to moderate-income families and individuals and includes 76 units: 12 studios, 48 one-bedroom units, and 16 two-bedroom units-which is a win.
Although this is a start to helping the issues with housing, there is still a lot of work to do. How do we as a community make sure that all locals and Squamish business owners can find a rental in town?