Areas marked in red are deemed to have critically high levels of overspending on rent according to an advocacy group.

Areas marked in red are deemed to have critically high levels of overspending on rent according to an advocacy group.

B.C. rental housing affordability in ‘crisis’

Many Metro Vancouver renters pay more than they can afford: advocacy group

Housing advocates say Metro Vancouver renters are battling a crisis of affordability, with many paying more than they can afford for a roof over their heads.

The B.C. Non-Profit Housing Association has unveiled a new rental housing index website at bcnpha.ca/rhi that includes an interactive map showing rental data for each community.

Nearly half of renters in several Metro municipalities are spending more than the maximum recommended 30 per cent of their income on rent and utilities, according to the association’s findings.

And at least one in four renters pay more than half their income to rent in Richmond, Burnaby, Coquitlam, White Rock, Langley City, Vancouver and West Vancouver – cities where rent overspending is flagged as “critical.”

Association executive director Tony Roy said the overspending by many rental households puts them at risk of financial crisis.

“Many know their rent is too high but feel like they don’t have a choice but to pay up,” Roy said. “We’re not building more rental housing, so renters are forced to overspend in crowded or deteriorated conditions, or they become homeless.”

He argued it’s cheaper to invest in affordable housing now than face higher health and justice costs stemming from homelessness later on.

One in two B.C. renters doesn’t have access to adequate and reasonably priced housing, according to the association.

Affordability is worst on the Burrard Peninsula and North Shore, according to the findings, while rents get cheaper South of the Fraser and east of Coquitlam.

The index found Surrey and White Rock are the worst cities in the region for rental overcrowding, followed by Burnaby and Coquitlam.

The average monthly expenditure on rent and utilities in Metro Vancouver is $1,054, compared to $860 in the Fraser Valley. In both regions that works out to 23 per cent of the average renter’s income.

Metro municipalities have been advocating for provincial and federal tax reforms to encourage construction of more rental housing.

One major problem is the aging stock of existing rental apartments.

According to a 2012 study, a third of Metro’s renters – 110,000 households – live in low-rise wood frame buildings more than 40 years old that are increasingly targeted for redevelopment.

It estimated 6,300 units built before 1980 across Metro are already at moderate to high risk of redevelopment.