Today’s Poll

Report: high rents push one fifth of Nelsonites, one quarter of youth below poverty line

Timothy Schafer
By Timothy Schafer
July 25th, 2018

Almost one in five Nelsonites lives below the Canadian low-income measure threshold, according to the latest Report Card on Homelessness released earlier this month.

Around 19.3 per cent of the city’s residents spend more than 30 per cent of their income on housing and utilities, with nearly one quarter of the city’s young people (24.1 per cent) up to age 17 also living below the threshold, the report found.

In fact, the increasingly endangered one-bedroom rental in Nelson has become so expensive it can cost someone working a minimum wage job over half of their income alone for accommodation — and has pushed some people to the street.

There has been a “marked climb in housing costs” over the last few years in Nelson, the report noted, as the increased real estate costs from the Lower Mainland and the Okanagan have filtered through to the Kootenay region.

“Low incomes and climbing costs of living can put households at risk,” the report noted.

In the last two years the average advertised one-bedroom apartment was listed at $1,050, up from $938 in 2016, while the monthly gross minimum wage income was $2,193.

Paying 30 per cent of household income for housing and utilities is considered the measurement of affordability by Canada Mortgage and Housing.

The number one barrier to youth — those under the age of 24 — in finding stable housing in the city (93 per cent) was listed as high rents.

Authored and compiled by the Nelson Committee on Homelessness, the report card is an annual survey on the social state of the union in the city, conducted in the spring of each year for the last 10 years.

Collected through the point-in-time homelessness count and housing needs survey, the survey targeted people who were experiencing some type of homelessness in 17 different outdoor, service, college, shelter and transitional housing locations.

In all, 725 people were approached and tallied, with a 132 people found to be experiencing some type of homelessness. Of those, 54 per cent were male, 38 per cent were female and seven per cent were two spirit, trans, non-binary or gender neutral.

Nearly one third of the people found to be homeless were youth 24 years old and under (32 per cent), while 31 per cent of people identified as having indigenous ancestry and eight per cent had served in the Canadian military.

The city’s homeless are not transient, the report said, with 55 per cent of the homeless people having lived here for over five years.

“While they may be looking for an affordable housing option, or just shelter and a safe place, or job opportunities for which they are capable the … survey found that the majority of individuals experiencing homelessness had lived in Nelson over five years but were struggling to achieve stability,” the report read.

Most people moved to Nelson because family had moved to the city, while others moved for the city’s reputation/culture. To a lesser extent, some moved for fear of safety, while the fourth biggest reason was access to services and supports (nine out of 101 surveys).

For most homeless people (82 per cent) the top barrier to finding and keeping housing in Nelson was the rent was too high and there was not enough affordable housing. Around 63 per cent of people cited low income also as a barrier, family conflict and bad roommates (29 per cent) and poor housing conditions (27 per cent) also were listed as barriers.

Affordability in Nelson is one thing, availability is non existent. The overall vacancy rate in Nelson for 2017 was zero per cent, with people of low and modest income looking for more rentals outside of Nelson.

The report also found that there is now an acceptance of posting formal and informal recreational vehicle sites under housing rentals, and that there was an increase in the number of Nelson rural rentals available.

There was also an increase in the number of short-term rentals in the city, with a notable jump in two-bedroom rental rates in Castlegar and the Slocan Valley.

What is homelessness

Homelessness means not having access to permanent, safe, stable housing where you can stay for as long as you want or shut the door to have your own safe space.

It may mean having to choose between a roof over your head or other basic needs like food, clothing, medicine and transportation.

It may also mean you do not have the supports you need to help maintain your health and housing stability.

— Source: Nelson Committee on Homelessness


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