Real Estate

Creativity and Compromise Needed to Beat Vancouver’s Rental Market

Posted on May 15, 2017 - The dirty secrets are out in Vancouver! Snow is a paralyzing force. The 2017 Canucks are not a playoff team. Rents in this city are rising to astronomical levels. From families to students and professionals too, this rental market has people questioning their continued existence in this city and wondering aloud, “How much longer can I afford to live here?”

Average one bedroom apartments are currently at a staggering $1900/month with no apparent end in sight (although the recent introduction of regular snow might have some Canadians thinking twice about moving here for the ‘better climate’). While causes of the problem are blamed on a variety of factors, such as disproportionate supply to demand, AirBnb, and foreign buyers leaving condos empty, this does little to help people solve the problems they face when seeking a long term rental in Vancouver.

What are the solutions to this rental crunch? In London, England, once homeowners have built as high as they can, they dig down into the earth creating multi-level basements and luxury apartments.

They’re going where the room is and increasing rental spaces. It’s also not uncommon to hear of Londoners living 6-8 people in one bachelor suite. Is that where we’re going too? In New York in 2014, a well-dressed ‘homeless’ man was found to be living in Manhattan Bridge complete with make-shift walls and locks. That’s one way to save on rent but hardly a real solution for families and professionals in the city.

In Vancouver, there has been a push for small laneway homes, increased apartment buildings (sooo many apartment buildings), and even storage container homes. Do you have a tree fort in your backyard? That can be rented out for at least $1000/month.

Take Your Space

In Vancouver, one bedroom apartments with pantries are being turned into one bedroom apartments with a baby’s room.

Large closets are fitting bunk beds. Ikea is making a fortune. Soon, a sleeping bag under a coffee table will be called a rental space; $600/month? In January of this year, the story of a Vancouver man living in a storage locker went viral.

With furniture, heat, and even a sink, he was able to live in the unit for two months (before getting caught and evicted). That’s creative (but illegal) and shows what people will resort to in order to make ends meet and find their space.

It’s Not Over

Even once a suitable rental space is found, people need to compete with a myriad of other potential renters and prove themselves worthy. References, financial statements, skill testing questions, and talent contests may all be required.

Got a pet? You may be out of luck. You could find yourself arguing, “You said, No Dogs! I only have one dog.” Will renters be naming their cat, Nose Moe King? “You said, ‘Nose Moe King’ Allowed!”

Get Cozy

Roommates. As rent goes up, roommates increase. Floor space becomes sleeping space and a couch can become your luxury home.

Splitting the costs and living in close quarters is part of the London, Hong Kong, and Tokyo experience. Vancouver is no different. It becomes a challenge seeing how many people you can ‘comfortably’ live with.

Night shift workers such as nurses, police officers, and first responders may find success sharing an apartment with day workers. While one is sleeping, the other is out working. Paying half the rent for half the apartment time seems reasonable and solution-oriented but likely not overly satisfying for hard-working professionals who feel they should be able to afford a little more independence.

The Beauty of the City Breeds Creativity

Vancouver is a beautiful city. With that beauty comes more and more people wanting to be here. It’s the same story for many great international cities from New York, to London, to Hong Kong. If people want to live here, they find a way. 

What story will we be reading about next? Tokyo has pod hotels. Could Vancouver have pod rentals spaces attached to shared laundry, bathrooms, and showers? Are container homes coming to downtown parking spaces? As Plato stated, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” Expect Vancouver’s rental necessity to see more creative living spaces.

Rental prices keep increasing almost by the month. The focus on the causes seems to be taking away from efforts to find solutions.

What creative ways have you found to beat Vancouver’s rental market? Have you left Greater Vancouver, not because you wanted to, but for more affordable pastures? It will be interesting to see if Vancouver’s rental bubble does eventually burst.

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