Nfld. & Labrador

Woods, cars, couches provide shelter in Grand Falls-Windsor

Vacancy rates here are not only the lowest in the province, but the cause of desperate measures for some people trying to find a room of their own.
Renting anything in Grand Falls-Windsor is extraordinarily difficult, reports Carolyn Ray 2:11

Vacancy rates in the largest town in central Newfoundland are not only the lowest in the province, but the cause of desperate measures for some people trying to find a room of their own.

Housing advocate Sherri Skeans said the Grand Falls-Windsor housing market is particularly tough for people on fixed incomes. (CBC )

"People are living in the woods, people are living in their vehicles, people are couch-surfing," said Sherri Skeans, an advocate who works with the Central Housing and Homelessness Network in Grand Falls-Windsor.

Although the town has suffered some economic blows — including the 2009 shutdown of a century-old newsprint mill that sparked the town's very creation — Grand Falls-Windsor is still attracting new residents, with the town pointing to growth in the mining industry and in health care.

Canada Mortgage and Housing says the vacancy rate in the town is 0.9 per cent, making for the tightest market on the island.

Skeans said finding available shelter is always a challenge, particularly when rents increase.

"Every day, I work with people, trying to find them affordable housing in our community, and we're constantly running into the issue that there just isn't anything available," she said.

"People who are living on a fixed income, for example, seniors, with the rental increase, they just can't afford it," she said. "What do they do?  Where can they go?"

Mayor Al Hawkins said he would like to see more developers see opportunities in the rental market.

"When you look at trying to attract professionals to your town, you have to have the amenities to go along with that, and if you're running into a problem of a housing shortage or not adequate housing, then that becomes more of a difficult sell," Hawkins told CBC News.

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