A fifth of Williams Lake renters are paying more than 50 per cent of their income on rent says a housing study released this week.
In its Rental Housing Index, the BC Non-Profit Housing Association also showed another 38 per cent of renters in the lakecity are paying more than 30 percent of their gross income on rent.
“For those folks paying more than 50 per cent that’s a real crisis level of spending,” said Tony Roy, executive director of BCNPHA. “They will be having a hard time keeping their place and are at risk of becoming homeless.”
With so much of their incomes going to rent, vulnerable people are unable to afford good food or invest in their health, which in the end becomes more expensive for society to deal with than if rents were made affordable, Roy pointed out.
Thirty per cent of an income spent on rent is affordable, but in communities all around the province people are spending more than that, the index showed.
In Williams Lake there are 1,670 renters paying an average cost for rent plus utilities of $729.
That compares to Quesnel where there are 1,535 renters, paying on average $645 for rent plus utilities.
Twenty-two per cent of renters in Quesnel are paying more than 30 per cent of their incomes on rent, while 48 per cent are spending more than 50 per cent of their income on rent.
To create the index, the association pored over census data and Roy said the index will be used as a baseline for gathering further information.
In Canada higher rental rates have resulted from a downloading from the federal government, Roy said, adding there used to be lots of money in the federal budget for affordable housing and it’s still there but not being allocated.
“All the new housing that was built was built 30 years ago and the mortgages on those are coming to an end,” Roy said. “Government is keeping the money as surplus revenue, but if they kept spending the same amount they would have billions of dollars to build new affordable housing for people in need.”
Roy said it’s important that affordable housing be part of official community plans and hopefully the index will help.
“I think people underestimate how many people in a community are renters and yet we don’t always plan our communities for renters.”