British Columbia

Kelowna mother says tight rental market hampers fight to regain custody of kids

Finding a home in Kelowna's tight rental market can be a struggle, but, for one family, a lack of suitable housing has become a hurdle to regaining custody of their kids.

Low vacancy rates mean large families struggle to find housing in Kelowna, B.C.

In Kelowna, there's a zero per cent vacancy rate for bachelor and three or more bedroom apartments. It's only slightly higher for two-bedroom units, at half a per cent. (CBC)

Finding a home in Kelowna's tight rental market can be a struggle for anyone, but one mother says a lack of suitable housing in the city has complicated efforts to regain custody of her children.

Jessica Bryde's three children, now aged four, six and 10, were put in temporary foster care in early 2016.

One of several requirements for regaining custody, Bryde said, is to have housing with at least two bedrooms for the family of five.

She spent more than a year looking for a two or three-bedroom place, she told Christina Low on the CBC Radio series Rent Control.

"It's really impossible, because nobody is wanting a mum with three kids, or a family, because I got my husband too," Bryde said.

In Kelowna there's a zero per cent vacancy rate for bachelor apartments and three-or-more bedroom apartments, according to a Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation report.

For two bedroom apartments, the vacancy rate is at half a per cent.

Bryde lost her subsidized housing in February 2016 for falling behind on the rent. She said she was struggling with a number of issues at the time. A month later, her children went into foster care.

"They miss Mummy and Daddy. They really want to come home," said an emotional Bryde.

The Ministry of Children and Family Development denied a request for an interview but said in an emailed statement that unsuitable housing is never the lone reason children are removed from a family or prevented from having a child returned.

The Canadian Mental health Association in Kelowna confirms that, in general, before a child is removed, a family's situation is often more complicated than just housing.

Endless wait-lists

Bryde said she put her name on seemingly endless wait lists in her search for a home.

"I'm just going day-by-day, just praying that I get a house," she said.

Laurie Malott, the administrator of Columbian Centennial Housing Society, said the Bryde family's case is not unusual. At CCHS, there are more than 500 people on the wait-list to get into one of the 260 units.

Malott estimated he sees about 25 families in a similar situation as the Brydes each year — families who have lost custody of their children and need suitable housing, among other requirements, to get them back.

"In a lot of cases, they really struggle to find a place and, as a result, they have a hard time getting their children back," Malott said.

Housing for families

Bryde moved into a duplex last Friday and is expecting to get her children back before Christmas.

She said the experience has made her lose her faith in society because of how difficult it is to find housing as a family.

Heather and Shane Kambeitz, a Kelowna couple with five children still at home, had similar troubles finding a suitable home. They were often turned down by landlords because of the size of their family, Heather said.

"Sometimes, property managers would hang up the phone before I could even finish," she said.

"A lot of times, they would said 'I'll call you right back' and I would continue to call about the house, especially if it was under $2,400, but I never got the calls returned."

The Kambeitzs said the homes they looked at seemed to always go to a young professional couple that had offered more money for the place.

"It's basically gotten to the point of bidding wars for rentals and when you are on a limited income, it doesn't give you that option to extend yourself any further," Shane said.

With files from Christina Low and Daybreak South

Listen to Rent Control on CBC Radio 1's Daybreak South from Oct. 2 to Oct. 6, 2017.  


  • A previous version of this story stated that Jessica Bryde lost custody of her children due to a lack of suitable housing. In fact, she said she lost custody due to a number of issues and housing is one of several hurdles to getting them back.
    Oct 05, 2017 11:05 AM PT