After two months of searching and failing to find a place to rent in the Abbotsford area for her and her daughter, Stephanie Reimer bought a tent and started looking for a place to camp.
In the current white-hot housing market, reasonably priced rentals have become increasingly hard to find.
In a recent story on the issue, The News reported the number of available family-size rentals fell last year with more than 200 rental houses sold while housing prices in Abbbotsford and Mission rose 30 per cent.
The area has the third lowest rental vacancy rate in Canada, at 0.8 per cent, well below the average for the country at 3.3 per cent.
A just-released survey ranks Abbotsford as one of the most expensive places for renters in Canada.
The “Canada Rent Report” was produced by the Padmapper.com website, which operates a search map service for renters.
The report shows Abbotsford rents rose in May by 1.3 per cent for one bedrooms, bringing the median rent to $790, while two-bedroom units increased to a median of $1,100, an increase of 2.8 per cent.
Reimer, who has a chronic back injury that limits her ability to work, said most rental rates in Abbotsford are beyond her budget, making for a longer, more frustrating search.
“There’s a major war with rents going right now,” she said.
The place she and her daughter were in was about to be converted into a student residence and the landlord wasn’t willing to give them more time to find a place.
“We can’t afford a hotel and our friends don’t have room.”
Mother and daughter found a campground to stay at the beginning of June near Yarrow which allows monthly stays and has bathrooms, hot showers and a security gate.
They stashed most of their possessions in two rented storage lockers while they lived out of a tent, cooking their meals on a portable camp stove sheltered by a tarp strung over a park picnic table.
“I’ve never been camping this long,” Reimer told The News.
“When it’s forced on you, it’s not fun. I just felt helpless and like I was a failure as a mom.”
Padmapper.com spokesperson Devin O’Brien stopped short of calling the current rental situation a crisis, but wasn’t especially optimistic about the immediate future.
“It’s tough to say whether the entire province is experiencing a rental crisis, as every city and town is unique in supply/demand dynamic,” O’Brien said.
“However, I do think the real estate market in Greater Vancouver is starting to show signs of a crisis.”
O’Brien expects rental vacancy rates in Greater Vancouver will remain very low, leading to continued upward pressure on rents.
Padmapper started up eight years ago as the first map-based rental search platform in the U.S. and soon expanded into Canada.
For it’s first rental survey in Canada, Padmapper said it analyzed hundreds of thousands of listings to identify the 25 most expensive cities for renters across the country.
Vancouver was the most expensive city for renters in B.C. and all of Canada, with a median one-bedroom rent of $1,700 a month, while the median two-bedroom rent was $2,780.
Among the other B.C. communities on the list, the next most expensive place to rent was Victoria (number three nationally) followed by Kelowna (number 11 nationally) and then Abbotsford (ranked number 20 among the 25 most expensive Canadian cities).
Reimer finally found a place to rent, about a week before she and April would have had to move out of the campground, because it was fully booked for the summer season.
“I was ecstatic,” Reimer said. “I’m just glad that we found a place.”
The place in Chilliwack was not advertised. Reimer got a tip from a friend.