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Affordability Series - The Quest for Affordable Housing for Young Adults & Families

by Anne Jardine

All examples cited in this series of articles on Affordability are based on real experiences recounted by East and West Kootenay people living with affordability concerns.

In terms of housing, people in transition from one phase of life to another face the greatest challenges. Change is often difficult. Changing housing situations can be daunting for people with sufficient resources, and even more daunting for those with marginal resources.

One group of marginal people are those who are attending post-secondary schools away from home. On-campus student housing in Nelson at Selkirk College and in Cranbrook at College of the Rockies is usually modestly priced – from $550-$700 per month - but over-subscribed, often with waiting lists. Students who attend post-secondary schools in large cities such as Vancouver, Victoria, Calgary, Toronto, etc. must muster up the money to travel there and also the exorbitant rent requirements that are the going rates in those cities.

Both here in the Kootenays and off in the larger centres, many students have to share off-campus accommodations and rent bedrooms in houses together with others like themselves. Some are sleeping in pantries or closets without windows or proper ventilation, some in damp, musty basements or uninsulated attics. They do whatever they have to do to stay within their affordability range, or if they cannot, they go deeper into student-loan debt, or they quit school. Living conditions can sometimes make or break a student’s success. The stress of living in crowded or unhealthy situations can often be a serious, even an insurmountable challenge.

Young families are another group that have difficulty finding affordable housing. Real estate companies in the Kootenays list modest two-bedroom homes in a range from $250,000-$400,000. A young couple who just moved into a trailer-home set on a partial basement on a small fenced lot in a small village in East Kootenays paid $282,000 for their new nest. They had to put up 30% of the purchase price as down payment in order to secure their bank mortgage. They were lucky to have help from their parents to cover some of their $84,600 down payment. Between them, they earn approximately $74,000 annually. Their mortgage payment is slightly lower than the rent they were paying in their previous place, but they will now have to add property tax and house insurance to their housing costs. Will they be able to stay in their affordability zone?

Paying 30% of household income for housing and utilities is the measure of affordability set by Canada Mortgage and Housing.

Two-bedroom apartments for young families rent for $1,200-$2800 per month here in the Kootenays. A renter will have to earn at least $48,000 annually in order to stay in the affordability zone for the low end of that range, and earn $111,000 to remain in the affordability zone for the higher rent. Even with two incomes, many young families do not meet that earning potential. Housing affordability can be a real stretch.

Read about the New Democratic Party's "Affordability" Commitments in Ready for Better.

Search for "Affordability" in the search bar on this website for other blog posts in the Series.

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