We all know that Victoria is an expensive place to live, especially for many young people. Housing is generally considered affordable if you spend less than 305 of your income per month on housing- for folks who are forced to spent more than this, they often have to make sacrifices in other areas of their life, for example many people go hungry because of the cost of housing. For someone working full-time for minimum wage the affordable housing rate (30% of income) would be $395/month. However….
The cheapest apartment in Victoria costs $665/month (for a bachelor unit)
In our survey, 38% of the youth who responded indicated that they rented their current housing. Of those, almost 60% of youth are either very or somewhat unsatisfied with the availability of affordable housing in Victoria and only half of youth are satisfied with the responsiveness of their landlord. Many listed safe and affordable housing as the most important issue addressed in the survey.
Youth in Victoria face added challenges in accessing safe and affordable housing because:
Despite these risks, many of the youth in our survey are generally positive about their rental situations:
What youth say…
There is strong connection between housing issues and access to education for youth.
“We need more subsidized housing for youth who are living on their own and going to school.”
“ Victoria is hard place to live for students”
“Housing for all youth whom are in transition and support for them to attend school”
“Relatively cheap housing so that I can continue to study at UVic”
Some youth are more likely than others to be disadvantaged in the housing market. As one youth writes, “Housing is a HUGE problem, especially for young mothers”. We also know that certain groups of youth, including youth transitioning out of care, racialised youth and LGBT youth are more likely to end up homeless.
For youth who are struggling with housing issues, this impacts on other areas of their lives “I’m on my own [earning] minimum wage paying rent. I have no time to have fund and no money when I do have time. I feel stuck.”
One youth sums up the housing situation as “It is either priced too high or a dump.”
Youth homelessness in Victoria
Housing and homelessness are clearly very interconnected issues. Homeless youth often face extreme stereotyping and discrimination, especially in Victoria where there is a misconception that homeless youth are ‘not from here’ and are living on the streets by choice. Youth end up homeless for a variety of reasons, including family breakdown, poverty, discrimination, mental health issues and drug addiction. Many more youth are what is referred to as “insecurely housed”- meaning they couch surf or crash (in shelters, with friends or acquaintances) wherever they can. These youth make up part of the invisible housing population and, like other homeless youth are often struggling to stay in school, hold down employment or raise a family.
British Columbia is the only province with steadily increasing child & youth poverty rates. All other provinces have seen rates decline since 2000.
According to the Community Council, in 2008 there were “approximately 220 adolescent children (aged 13-18), 323 emerging adults (aged 19-24), and 73 young adults (aged 25-30) … without safe, stable housing in BC’s Capital Region. This is a conservative estimate of 616 individual youth who need housing in our region”.
For these 616 youth in need of housing there are:
Clearly this is in adequate.
And as the GVCEH notes “It is important to remember that not everyone who is homeless or in need of housing stays in a shelter. Some groups, particularly families, women and youth, often do not stay in shelters because of safety concerns, specific restrictions (for example, no pets allowed) and for other reasons”.
However, there is reason to be hopeful. Victoria is home to a number of committed groups and dedicated individuals who are working to change things. The Victoria Youth Housing Network and the Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness are both actively working to address this issue. There is also passionate group of youth service providers in the West Shore (Langford, Colwood, Sooke, etc.) who are working to create more housing options for youth. You can get involved with these groups too.
Leadership Victoria also recently supported a Youth Action for Homelessness video contest. The entries are challenging and inspiring. web link