Abbotsford residents spend an average of $866 on rent plus utilities, according to the BC Non-Profit Housing Association’s rental housing index.
While that figure is below the provincial average, around four in 10 Abbotsford households spend more than 30 per cent of their before-tax income on rent and utilities – the point beyond which many advocacy organizations say housing becomes “unaffordable.”
And many spend even more than that on housing, according to the survey, with 19 per cent of renters spending more than half their income on rent and utilities.
The situation is worst for the poorest 25 per cent of renters. Those renters, who earn below $21,150 a year, on average spend nearly three-quarters – 74 per cent – of their income on housing.
According to the survey, which can be found at bcnpha.ca/rhi, Abbotsford “would need at least 2,730 bedrooms to house all renters suitably,” the largest such figure in the Fraser Valley.
Abbotsford’s numbers are generally similar to both Mission and Chilliwack, but less severe than those seen in Metro Vancouver. In Langley, for instance, the average rent is $1,105 and even most poor households spend an average of more than $900 on rent.
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.
–with files from Jeff Nagel