Three years ago Kat, 33, and her partner moved from Vancouver to Squamish to escape the high cost of housing in the city and begin saving for a down payment. For the first year, the plan worked: they were able to rent a lovely home that allowed pets – one of her passions. Then Squamish began to boom.
Cashing in on the soaring real estate market, Kat’s landlords decided to sell, leaving Kat and her partner to find a new home for themselves and their pets.
With vacancy rates approaching zero, finding a rental unit is tough for anyone. But when you have pets, it’s nearly impossible. “There’s a lot of discrimination here in the rental market,” Kat explains. “Having four animals, it’s very looked down upon. Having one animal is tough enough, never mind telling someone you have four.”
Eventually, Kat and her partner settled on a trailer outside of town as a temporary measure, where the landlord allowed pets.
Today, that temporary arrangement feels like a trap. “I can’t move back to Squamish, there’s nothing available. I’m stuck living in a crappy doublewide with tarps on the roof.”
With nothing to rent, the only option left is to buy. This is made all the more difficult in a tight rental market. Currently, rents are so high that “you’re paying their mortgage plus some,” observes Kat. “Which isn’t fair, because there’s no way to save up for a down payment when you’re paying that much per month. There’s no possible way for you to attain any kind of savings.”
And that’s on top of paying off student loans from nine years of school.
Like most of her friends, Kat graduated from high school at a time when it was expected that most would go to postsecondary or university. “In high school it was like ‘you have to go to college or university.’ Ok, fine. And they were like don’t worry, if you don’t have money there’s student loans. And there’s good jobs once you go through that.”
So Kat took on student loans to attend university, only to discover that the promised jobs didn’t magically appear. Instead, she pursued additional training in Traditional Chinese Medicine – taking on more debt in the process. Now that Kat has completed her studies she makes decent money, but still feels that she’ll be paying off her student loans for the rest of her life. “And I still can’t buy a house.”
Kat’s not alone in feeling the squeeze. Her friends are leaving Vancouver in search of affordable housing. Many move the other direction, towards the Fraser Valley, making visiting all the more difficult. But few escape the trials of renting. Some even report that landlords reject their applications on the grounds they have children.
These stories are typical of younger Canadians. With higher education, lower incomes, and housing that costs many times more than a generation ago, it’s no wonder that so many younger Canadians are giving up the dream of owning their own home.
Since no one feels good giving up on dreams, Kat was glad to learn about Generation Squeeze. She feels better knowing it’s not her fault that earnings are down for young people while housing prices have skyrocketed.
And she feels more hopeful too. Hopeful learning from Generation Squeeze that there are policy solutions to keep home prices in reach, while ensuring other costs like student debt and child care don’t keep adding up to second and third mortgage payments.