The length a Vernon family took to keep loved ones housed - InfoNews

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The length a Vernon family took to keep loved ones housed

Tammy Pharand's husband Pierre builds a wall in the dining room of their home to make a bedroom for their oldest son and his girlfriend who were displaced by a fire in January 2017.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Tammy Pharand
April 05, 2018 - 7:00 PM

VERNON - Vernon’s tight rental market has some families getting creative when it comes to sharing space and keeping a roof over everyone's heads.

Tammy Pharand says her 32-year-old son and his girlfriend were forced out of their rental unit more than a year ago due to a kitchen fire started by a roommate and have been unable to find a new place to live.

“They look in every paper, they check every ad. And believe me, I look in every paper too,” Pharand says.

Both work and figure they could pay around $900 a month, Pharand says, but most places that do come up in Vernon are either “horrible” with unsanitary conditions or are designated 50- or 55-plus only. Technically in B.C., human rights laws mean landlords can’t refuse to rent to you because of your age, though they can restrict rentals to people 55-plus in seniors-only buildings.

Luckily for the young couple, Pharand and her husband were able to bring them into their own home. It’s not ideal, but it’s better than the street.

“It’s been interesting to say the least. Our house is not huge,” Pharand says. “We didn’t have an extra bedroom for them… so what we did was we had a long dining room, and we built a temporary wall and put in a wall and door so they have a small bedroom at least. What are you going to do?”

She says they “all love each other” but the close quarters are not their first choice.

“I think it is hard for them to be put back in that parent/child role even though we don’t purposefully do that, it makes them feel like they’re having to go and live with mom and dad again,” she says.

She says her youngest son, who is currently in college, is also living at home with them.

“Many of his friends are also still living at home with their parents because there is nowhere to rent,” she says.

Housing Minister Selina Robinson was in Vernon this week to announce a $23-million investment for three properties in the community: two existing apartment buildings that will be fixed up, and a new build that will accommodate people with low to moderate incomes, including seniors and people with disabilities. Tenants already living in the two existing apartments — roughly 70 units — can rest assured their housing won’t be going anywhere, and the new build will add 41 units to the limited rental pool in Vernon.

“When you have a housing crunch the way we have, it means there is potentially substandard housing available, and when people are desperate, they’ll stay in substandard housing, and that worries me,” Robinson says.

She says the affordable housing projects are open to people of all ages, including young adults.

“We want to build community, so you need everybody living together,” she says.

The Vancouver Resource Society, which will manage the properties, will be in charge of deciding who is eligible for the housing, which will rent for around $962 for a two bedroom in the new building — right on the money for Pharand’s son and his girlfriend. Martin Gardner, the director of operations for the Vancouver Resource Society, says applicants will likely have to meet income testing to verify they are low- to moderate- income.

The 41 new units won’t be finished until 2020, and while Pharand’s son searches for a rental, he’s also saving up money for a down payment on a home — an option that may actually be more realistic than finding a place to lease.

Pharand acknowledges that things could be worse. At least her son had family to lean on when disaster struck.

“It (fire) was in January — if they didn’t have family or family who was able to help, they would’ve been on the streets. That’s not an exaggeration,” she says.

Part of her reason for sharing her story, she says, is to show how easy it is for people to end up without a home. One house fire or lost job could make the difference between a place to hang your hat and the sidewalk.

“We’re here for them, but what about all the people who don’t have that? We saw that this winter with the homeless downtown. That could be any of them. If you’re in that situation, it’s just a downward spiral. You can end up feeling pretty hopeless,” she says. “What I see is a lot of judgement. People don’t stop to think that could be any of our kids one pay check away.”

How is the housing crisis impacting you? If you have a story, contact reporter Charlotte Helston at chelston@infonews.ca.


To contact a reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston or call 250-309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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