Lee Abrahams and her two daughters in the living area of her tiny suite. [image: Vancouver Sun]
“In the Fraser Valley, about an hour and a half or so from Vancouver, my husband and I live in a tiny home. We occupy 400 square feet with two young children and three pets, and pay a low rent to our family for occupying their property. My husband commutes more than two hours to work, each way, five days a week. He is in a company that treats him wonderfully, but his income is low, as is the same for just about everyone trying to get by in Vancouver and its surrounding areas.
I am a writer and cannot work full time out of the home because the cost of daycare far outweighs anything I could earn despite my extensive resume. I hail from New York City and when people ask me how on earth I was able to afford living in Manhattan, it’s hard not to laugh.
“Easier than I can afford living here,” I tell them. That usually elicits quiet shock. It leaves me speechless, too.
I came here five years ago from my loud and proud city to study at Simon Fraser University. At the time, housing had yet to become the full crisis it is today. I didn’t intend to stay long term, but it seemed like a good place to start over as a single mother. I went to school full time, worked two jobs and had a childcare arrangement with a lovely family that I was able to afford.
That time was a blur. I barely saw my daughter, and I assured myself that it was all for a good cause. I made decent money, was working toward my degree, and not too long after I met my now-husband. I stayed because I worked hard to be here and just as we were considering a house, things went wildly out of control.
We were priced out of the market. My husband’s parents were looking for a house, and it was not uncommon for them to be outbid by well over $100,000 of the asking price. Nine exhausting months later, and through word of mouth, they found a seller with enough property for us to share. My husband and I have been stuck in a weird in-between since finding this property with his parents.
We range from having a great savings nest, to having it completely drained once tragedy or car repairs are needed. Or my husband gets sick and loses hundreds of dollars just from getting the flu. Thus begins the tumultuous climb to paying down the credit cards we needed to rely on, paying double bills from the month we fell behind, and then — four months later — finally having savings again. Rinse and repeat.
Despite the market slowing down, prices are still significantly higher than incomes can afford. In Maple Ridge, the cheapest area of Metro Vancouver, incomes still have to be at least $121,780 a year to afford a house. And housing and low incomes aren’t the only challenges we and others face. We are incredibly fortunate to live with a low cost of housing, but it comes at great sacrifice.”