After a year-long study, United Way BC says more BC seniors are facing the potential for homelessness than ever before.
Their recent report Aging in Uncertainty: The Growing Housing Crisis for BC Seniors, cites a variety of factors, including the rising cost of living, inadequate retirement incomes and limited affordable housing options.
Laura Kadowaki of United Way BC says things are especially challenging for seniors living in the Okanagan region.
“We do see in Kelowna and West Kelowna very high levels of seniors who are spending 50 per cent or more of their income on housing," she said.
"For example, in Kelowna it's 25 per cent of the renters spending 50 per cent or more of their income who are seniors, and in West Kelowna it’s 33 per cent, so that’s higher than the provincial average. I would just like to highlight that in the Okanagan this is a very, very big challenge,” said Kadowaki.
In the last couple of years, the Seniors Outreach and Resource Centre in Kelowna has noticed a sizeable uptick in seniors coming by asking for help, further adding to the reports findings.
“Rents keep skyrocketing. A lot of them unfortunately have received no-fault evictions, and B.C. actually leads the nation in that regard of how many people lose their home to no fault of their own," said Ian Gerbrandt, executive director at Seniors Outreach.
"The landlord is looking to create space for a family member or whatever and the senior gets a notice and all of a sudden they’re trying to find a place on a really limited income and what they’re paying on the market is almost impossible to meet."
With many facing choice between paying their bills or putting food on the table, and others already on the streets, United Way says it's damaging to a senior’s mental health.
“One of the statements from somebody that’s really stuck with me throughout the process; she estimates that about half of her clients when she speaks with them have spoken openly about the fact that they’re contemplating suicide or they don’t feel they have a reason to live anymore because they are so stressed, let down, and disappointed, and feel like such a burden on the current system because of their housing and income security issues, and the fact that they just can’t get any of the support they need,” said Kadowaki.
United Way BC believes the government needs to start thinking about how to build more subsidized housing geared towards income, guaranteeing the renter pays no more than 30 per cent of their income.
Kadowaki also suggests that through long-term solutions, B.C. needs to protect the low-income rental housing supply.
“Thinking more about building more of that affordable housing and also protecting what we currently have," she added.