Editor’s note: The following is the first in a Finding Home series of profiles of islanders who are impacted by the lack of affordable housing, compiled by Aina Yasué of the local group Salt Spring Solutions.
By AINA YASUÉ
Salt Spring Solutions
Sarah Hyams has been the manager of Artcraft at the Salt Spring Arts Council for the past two years, but she isn’t sure how long she can keep the job she loves due to her housing uncertainty.
Drawn to the beauty of nature and the arts community of Salt Spring Island, Sarah moved here with her son three years ago. Despite feeling initially uneasy due to the stories she heard of the difficulty of finding rental housing here, she kept a positive attitude and settled in. However, in the three years she has been on the island, she has been forced to move to a different rental home six times — that works out to twice a year.
“Finding a permanent place to rent is like finding gold,” says Sarah, due to the lack of availability of long-term rental homes.
The upheaval of moving every few months while working full-time, as well as the stress of housing uncertainty and security, can take its toll.
“It’s part of the culture here,” she says. “It’s almost a given that if you rent you have to kind of slog it out. I think some people just tire of it and leave.”
The federal and provincial governments have stated that in order for housing to be affordable it should take up no more than 30 per cent of a person’s income. Right now, Sarah is paying nearly 50 per cent of her income on rent every month.
She notes, “the salaries available on the island and rental housing costs don’t match up.” Hyams has also worked as a cleaner, and has noticed many living spaces on the island sit empty most of the time, noting the stark difference in the reality of life between that of home-owners and those who rent.
Sarah is looking for a one-bedroom cabin with a sofa-bed her 18-year-old son can sleep on when he visits. She must leave her current place by the end of September. If nothing turns up she will have to leave Salt Spring and Artcraft will lose a dedicated employee.