Jean Ticehurst is desperately trying to find an affordable apartment by the end of the month.
The 70-year-old has been forced to give notice at her current apartment, where she pays $1,650 a month. She used to split that with her daughter, until the latter moved out in June.
Ticehurst is able to cope with multiple disabilities, although she has to use a scooter because she has little balance.
Ticehurst only gets about $1,543 monthly between the Canadian Pension Plan, Old Age Security and the Guaranteed Income Supplement.
At max, she says, she could afford to pay $900 per month.
“That would be a real squeeze,” said the senior, adding that she could live off microwave food if she had to.
She has been searching for a place every day since the end of June, but has come up with nothing.
In addition to searching online, she scouts the community on her scooter for signs around town.
She wants to stay in the community because her specialists are here, but she is also considering moving to Port Coquitlam and Coquitlam.
A quick search for rentals on the website RentBoard.ca and Craigslist reveal only a handful of rentals, most advertising “luxury” apartments for rent.
A two-bedroom, two-bathroom unit on RentBoard was going for $1,950 a month, a three-bedroom, one bathroom unit was going for $1,850 per month and new single bedroom/bathroom suites from 526 sq.ft. to 768 sq.ft. were advertised starting at $1,250 per month. Two other rentals were for houses.
Maple Towers, subsidized seniors rental housing in Maple Ridge, has a two- to four-year waiting list for suites at the building. There were only three suites available for August, out of a total of 92 residential suites, an unusually high turnover for the facility, said Noel Manucduc, a chaplain with Baptist Housing, the organization that runs the Maple Ridge building.
Former Maple Ridge mayor Ernie Daykin, administrator with Maple Towers, says the wait list is dependent on move-outs.
“Once people are in, they stay,” he said by e-mail from Nova Scotia.
“I’ve had lots of 20-year plus residents. One lady moved into the building in 1986,” he said.
But in order to get into subsidized housing, people must be first be on the B.C. Housing registry.
Ticehurst has filled out an application for B.C. Housing and they send her lists of possible places to rent. She has to do the legwork herself.
“Sunday, I ran my scooter out of power,” she said, adding that she has been to every place on the list two or three times.
And she has been told at some of the buildings that there is a seven- to 10-year waiting list to get in.
However, Andrea Coutts with B.C. Housing said in a statement that the registry does not operate on the basis of a waitlist or on a first-come first-serve system. Each of the applicants on the registry are assessed on a case-by-case basis, she said, and there are a number of factors that determine the available housing options in the area chosen by an applicant.
She noted that some of the applicants on the housing registry are already in subsidized housing units, but are waiting for units that more closely match their needs or desired location.
Criteria used for prioritizing applicants include a point system to determine those in greatest need, a categorical system where applicants facing a severe risk to their health and/or safety or applicants with serious health, medical and social needs are seen to first, or chronological.
Coutts said that if someone is without shelter, homeless outreach workers will work with their housing partners to provide options, including space in an emergency shelter, as well as exploring other housing options.
Outside B.C. Housing, the cheapest rent Ticehurst has seen is $1,140 for a bachelor in Port Coquitlam.
Maple Ridge Mission MLA Bob D’Eith said that housing is a top priority for his government in an e-mail Thursday.
He blames the previous B.C. Liberal government for the current housing crisis, adding that the NDP are working in partnership with local and federal governments, non-profits, colleges and universities, Indigenous communities and private developers to increase the supply of affordable rental housing in the province.
The B.C. government is working to build 114,000 affordable homes by 2028.
Coutts noted that the 2018 budget included a $7-billion investment that has seen more than 21,000 new homes that have been completed, are under construction or in the approval process, “for a range of people who are struggling to find a place to live, from people who are experiencing homelessness and seniors on fixed incomes, to middle-income families, students and individuals.”
If Ticehurst is unable to find something by the end of the month she expects she will have to build a fort out of the evergreen trees and live in the bush.
“What choice do I have?”
“There is nothing affordable for me as a disabled senior,” said Ticehurst.
“But if I was addicted, the doors would be open to housing, food and clothing, as well as many handouts.”