Victoria’s Housing Crisis: One Woman’s Story

Hopefully, you had a chance to hear the excellent interview on CBC with Candace Stretch on Friday, November 15. Candace spoke eloquently and poignantly about how the current housing crisis in Victoria is impacting women leaving abusive partners.

Following up on Candace’s interview, here is a story about how the housing crisis impacts the women at The Cridge Transition House.

Leslie arrived at The Cridge Transition House on January 13th. Police referred her when they arrested her partner for assaulting her. She arrived with her two children and 3 suitcases. Her 30-day stay was consumed with working with the justice system, applying for income assistance, trying to comfort her children, and looking for a new home to launch a life without violence for her and her children. All these were daunting tasks but the housing search was by far the most arduous.

Leslie was very optimistic when she started her housing search. Her combined income assistance and child tax benefits would give her a monthly income of $2,500. She started looking at 3-bedroom apartments. She quickly realized that 3 bedroom apartments are scarce and expensive – rents started at $2,400 per month. That would leave her only $100 for food, hydro, bus fare, and all the other essentials. Two-bedroom apartments ranged from $1800 to $2000 – that would be tight but doable. But demand is high and Leslie found herself being rejected in favour of couples and families with higher incomes or better references. Landlords wouldn’t even consider renting a one-bedroom or bachelor suite to a family of 3 no matter how willing Leslie was to fit her family into a small unit.

Leslie’s optimism started giving way to despair.

She applied for subsidized housing and second stage housing only to find out that the waitlists were so long there was no way to know when or if anything would ever come available.

As her 30-day stay in the emergency transition house shelter was rapidly coming to an end, the harsh reality of the housing crisis in Victoria loomed large for Leslie. It was no comfort to hear that the near impossibility of securing safe, affordable housing is the experience of so many women trying to escape the violence in their lives. The Cridge Transition House staff would not put Leslie and her children out on the street. But not being able to move women along into safe housing, means the waitlist just gets longer for women needing to come into the transition house.

Safety, urgency, affordability all highlight the need for quick action for more housing that women on very limited incomes can realistically afford.

The lives of hundreds of women and children are depending on it.