Residents burned out of their Maple Ridge home are now desperate to find housing in a tight rental market.
Donna McGillis explained that she, her sister Rhonda and a third roommate lost their rental housing on 224th Street to a fire on Sept. 2.
They discovered the blaze in the furnace/hot water heater room at about 5 a.m. Donna said she awoke to see Rhonda in her room, and the top of the house was so full of smoke she could only see her sister’s legs.
The house needs renovations that will take six months to one year.
The three tenants know their possessions are severely smoke damaged and even covered in soot. They have not been able to get into the house and fully salvage what they can because of asbestos in the building, which is now boarded up.
They weren’t insured. The Red Cross came to their aid, and put them up at the Best Western for the past two months.
“Thank God they were there to help us,” said Donna.
But that is coming to an end soon.
They have had such a hard time finding housing that the trio is willing to share a two-bedroom apartment, but have found it difficult to find one.
“I check every day on Craigslist and Kajiji – I’m telling you there is nothing out there,” said Donna. “And the prices are unbelievable.”
When there is housing available, the competition is fierce.
The most they can afford is $1,500 per month. Leaving Maple Ridge might mean leaving jobs behind.
The national housing agency pegs the vacancy rate at 1.4 per cent for B.C., but it is less than one per cent in Vancouver and other Lower Mainland cities.
The provincial average for rents is $1,387 for a two-bedroom apartment, but that can soar to more than $2,000 in the Lower Mainland.
The province has announced a $7 billion affordable housing plan that will build 114,000 units over a decade.
The province has partnered with Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows Community Services on a new building at 22768-119 Ave., with units as low as $375 per month.
But that 96-unit project is still more than a year from completion.
• Anyone with a rental who can help the burned-out household can call Donna at 604-764-0469 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.