Vacancy rates are low, and senior renters are especially vulnerable. (file photo)

Editorial: Plight of senior renters a quiet crisis

Seniors are badly affected by the lack of affordable rentals.

When people think about the lack of affordable rental housing in the Cowichan Valley they usually think of the single parents, or families with children who survive on low income.

Not often considered are seniors. And yet seniors are badly affected by the lack of affordable rentals.

According to a report issued last month by B.C. Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie, almost 20 per cent of seniors rent. These seniors are facing harder and harder times Mackenzie tells us.

Rents for a one-bedroom apartment have increased 6.7 per cent, with no increase to the Shelter Aid for Elderly Renters subsidy cap and basic retirement income rising only 1.2 per cent. The gap is stark.

“The economic reality for seniors who rent is the most dire,” said Mackenzie. “We know that seniors have the lowest median income of any age cohort over 25 and we know that the poverty rate for seniors increased by 24 per cent since 2005, the largest increase of any age cohort. The ability of seniors, particularly those aged 80 and greater to move to less expensive neighbourhoods is very limited. Seniors must be located near transit and services given they will depend on these more and more as they age.”

It all adds up to a quiet crisis.

We know that seniors facing this mounting affordability crisis will look to try to cut costs elsewhere, areas that can include food and medications. This in turn impacts their health (not to mention the stress of trying to maintain a roof over their heads), which ends up costing taxpayers in hospital care and emergency interventions, and even the move to seniors care homes before seniors would have had to otherwise.

There are some moves in the community towards building some affordable housing, but it’s not nearly enough. We haven’t fixed it yet and there are no laurels to rest on.