British Columbia

Affordable housing solutions for 'missing middle' explored in Museum of Vancouver workshop

Alec Smecher spent six months bouncing between couches at family members' homes, trying to find a suitable rental home for him and his young daughter.

'A one-bedroom is basically fine ... then they have a kid,’ says one of the speakers

"There are perhaps two-bedroom units [for rent in Vancouver] but if you want to get a bed in there, you give up the right to stand up," says Alec Smecher who is still looking for a place for his family. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

Alec Smecher spent six months bouncing between couches at his family members' homes, trying to find a suitable rental home for him and his young daughter.

He found a two-bedroom, garden-level place but within the year the rental was sold and Smecher was once again looking for a new home.

"I was lucky to find a place that I've been in since then but it's a one-bedroom and I do have my daughter three days a week," he told CBC host of The Early Edition Stephen Quinn.

Smecher's story of trying to find a home is not unusual in Vancouver's rental market.

An upcoming event at the Museum of Vancouver focuses on the struggle to find affordable housing for the city's "missing middle," which refers to people in their 20s and 30s who are starting families. The term can also refer to smaller and mid-sized housing options, such as duplexes, townhomes and laneway houses. 

Daniel Oleksiuk, co-founder of Abundant Housing Vancouver, is one of the speakers at the event.

"For a lot of people, a one-bedroom is basically fine for them and then they have a kid," said Oleksiuk. "All of a sudden, they need something bigger. It's really hard and there is not much out there."

Lack of rentals

Vancouver has one of the lowest vacancy rates and some of the highest rents in the country, according to Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation's latest annual report.

A two-bedroom apartment rents for an average of $1,552 per month, the report said. And with a vacancy rate of less than one per cent, finding a place is no easy task.

Oleksiuk wants to see better use of land and more eco-density to increase rental stock.

One way of achieving this, he said, is to build more laneway houses instead of garages.

"Just building more isn't going to solve everything but without building more housing we are not going to be able to fix this," he said.  

Smecher, who is still searching for a larger home for him and his kindergarten-aged daughter, said the problem goes deeper than a lack of rental stock.

He has recently started reporting illegal Airbnb suites to the City of Vancouver.

"I wouldn't by any means call Airbnb the bogeyman but when groups like [Oleksiuk's] are working to facilitate new construction, we're talking about work that is going to take years to do," he said. "The Airbnb units are available now."

The public workshop and housing discussion at the Museum of Vancouver, which is sold out except to members, is being held on Thursday, Feb. 1.

With files from The Early Edition.