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Renters without references ignored by Thunder Bay landlords

People moving from small First Nations communities to Thunder Bay, may struggle to find housing in the city’s competitive rental market.

Demand for references difficult for people whose only references are family members

Thunder Bay tenant Jamie Spade says that, without references, finding rental housing in the city is a difficult task. It took her more than six months to find a place to live. (Amy Hadley/CBC)

People moving from small First Nations communities to Thunder Bay, may struggle to find housing in the city’s competitive rental market.

When Jamie Spade came to the city from Lac Seul, she didn’t expect her apartment hunt would take more than six months.

She said landlords want a lot of information about prospective tenants, including references — something she didn’t have, as housing is allocated through the band office in her home community.

“When we give them references and we try to say we only have family, we never get a call back, especially if they ask for references,” Spade said.

"[In Lac Seul] it's just a little community, it's not a city ... it's not like here where we rent different homes. There we stay put, we don't move. We know everybody as friends, family — mainly family. We have no references. So it's makes it a lot more difficult because a lot of people want references, we don't have any."

Rental prices in Thunder Bay were also higher than she expected.

'We feel like giving up'

The long hunt for a place to rent took a toll on her family, which includes her partner, and their two young children.

While they searched, they lived at her mom's house in Thunder Bay.

Spade said her hope was to find a place with a price ceiling of about $1000 per month.

Eventually they found an apartment in November — a basement apartment — not the house they were hoping for.

Spade acknowledged things would be easier if she worked and brought in an income. In the meantime, her boyfriend’s mining job allows her to stay home to look after their baby. She’s also expecting another child, and they'll need a bigger place.

That means they’re on the hunt for a bigger home in which to live.

“We don't know what to do sometimes,” Spade said.

“We feel like giving up. But we look at our kids and we know we need to give a proper home for them. So we try our best."

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