Opinion: Desperate calls for housing help in Squamish

Local residents issue pleas for somewhere — anywhere — to live

On the other end of the newsroom phone is a distraught single mom.

The tension, fear, and anger in the air on her end are palpable as she tries to calm down enough to tell me her story.

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She’s been evicted and has nowhere to go, she says. She’s standing in what had been her home awaiting a moving van.

From this resident’s perspective, the eviction was not what it appeared to be — a result of a bad tenant. Instead, she said through tears, it was greed masquerading as concern for property. The family paid a relatively low rent, for the current market, and the only way to jack up the price was to get rid of the tenant, she said.

Sadly, this was the second such story I had heard in two days. And the stories were nothing new. The complaints come in weekly now.

Of course, it can be difficult to be a landlord. Tenants can take advantage of the kindness of a homeowner, destroy property, let their animals run amok and be nightmares to get rid of.

I have no doubt there are plenty of those nasty tenants in Squamish.

But, it can’t be a coincidence that as our housing crisis has ramped up so too have the stories of “slumlords” and unfair evictions.

Not to mention those looking for rentals with pets who contact us upset that their fur family is not welcome in so many rentals here.

Able to pick and choose, many landlords are deciding not to allow cats or dogs, or are strictly limiting them.

Sea to Sky Community Services has a helpful list of resources for renters that includes information on what landlords can and can’t do as well as renters’ responsibilities. (Find it at www.sscs.ca/tenant-resources/.)

What’s needed are more affordable and government subsidized housing units, and more are on the way in the form of Under One Roof and possibly the District’s Buckley Avenue, purpose-build rental. 

Regardless of who wins seats at the council table this fall, most agree a housing authority should soon follow to manage it all.

But those promises won’t help the people who, through a series of unfortunate challenges, find themselves on the outside of their Squamish home, desperately looking in.

The hard part for journalists is that because so much is at stake, renters don’t want to speak out in the media.

Without names on the record, we get into the muddy waters of publishing anonymous accusations. A dangerous place for reporters and their papers as it leaves both open to not just criticism but legal trouble.

Ethics also preclude journalists from spearheading things, but let me just put it out there that it would great to see the revitalization of a Squamish tenants association.

A group formed in 2015 and looked promising,  but the issue and the needs were overwhelming and soon exhausted those who had tried to launch it.

But there seem few other ways than banding together and advocating with one voice.

Until then, we will keep bracing for the sadness on the other end each time we answer the newsroom phone.

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