An Abbotsford man who was displaced after an apartment fire earlier this month says the low vacancy rate and high rental fees are making it virtually impossible for him to find a new place to live.
The man, who asked to be identified only by his initials H.B., said he is frustrated by the difficulty in finding a residence.
The issue is further complicated by the fact that he needs a scooter to get around due to multiple health issues, and anywhere he lives must be wheelchair-accessible.
H.B. had lived since 2016 in the Cedar Green apartments on Countess Street in central Abbotsford.
A fast-moving blaze ripped through the building on the evening of March 6, resulting in the death of a woman in her 60s who lived on the third floor.
Firefighters rescued several people who were stranded on balconies, as well as four more individuals inside the building who needed assistance evacuating the blaze.
The building suffered extensive fire, smoke and water damage.
Everyone who lived in the building – even those whose suites were not damaged, including H.B. – has had to move out, because the building is unsafe for occupation.
H.B. said he was told that it could take up to two years for the building to be restored.
He said Emergency Social Services and the Red Cross stepped in after the fire to offer support for those displaced.
H.B. was among those who were moved to a local hotel, but the cost of his accommodation was covered only until Monday of this week.
His two sisters, who both live out of town and cannot take him in, have paid for his belongings to be placed in storage.
H.B. said he has been looking for a new place to live since being displaced, but has had no luck.
He is a former chef and now lives on a limited income (not social assistance). He said he cannot afford more than $900 a month for rent and utilities.
The high price of housing means that many landlords have hiked their rental fees, and the cost for available places is out of his range – if there are even any available.
Figures released by the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation last November indicated that B.C. continues to have some of the lowest rental vacancy rates in the country.
At that time, the Abbotsford-Mission census metropolitan area was reporting a vacancy rate of just one per cent.
H.B. said even a monthly hotel or motel rental is out of reach for him, and he is fearful of staying at homeless shelters.
On Monday morning, he wasn’t sure where he was going to go next: “As of right now, I’m homeless,” he said.
The following morning, he indicated that he had spent the night at a hotel, thanks to an individual who had paid for a three-night stay for him. But his uncertainty about the future is causing him anxiety and fear.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do,” he said.