West Shore construction workers building homes they can't afford to live in
The housing market on the South Island is so tight, construction workers say they're often unable to afford housing despite being in the business of building it. Dec. 1, 2017. (CTV Vancouver Island)
It's an example of cruel irony in a housing market that has reached crisis levels in British Columbia.
Workers trying to keep pace with a construction boom on the South Island say they're struggling to find homes of their own.
Stories of carpenters living in cars, tents and even crawl spaces are becoming tragically common in places like Sooke, where a vacancy rate of 1.3 per cent has been vastly eclipsed by a population growth rate of 13.7 per cent.
"It's a bit depressing, being able to build the walls but not getting the roof," said Andrew Tyrell, a trades worker in Sooke.
Rental space is so tight in the town that families are being forced to get creative – or face homelessness.
"My partner and my three kids, we were all living in about 200 square feet for the last two years, because that's what we could afford and that's what we could find," said Tyrell. "It was a camper on a friend's property, and that's the best we could get."
One Sooke contractor told CTV News one of his part-time workers often sleeps in a utility shed at a construction site.
Some contractors like former Sooke Coun. Herb Haldane said it's resulted in him taking on a second unofficial job.
"I actively look for places for these guys to live all the time," he said.
According to Haldane, rental stock on the West Shore is so low that communities need to get creative, rezoning areas for tiny homes and affordable housing as soon as possible.
"Thirty per cent of their income isn't enough for housing here, and that's for renting. So forget about home ownership," he said.
Sooke's council says it's aware of the housing shortage and has vowed to act.
The federal government recently unveiled a $40-billion National Housing Strategy that it says will benefit low-income tenants and create 60,000 new affordable housing units for Canadians.