Last week the BC Green Party asked British Columbians to share their housing stories to learn how the province’s housing crisis is affecting them.
One of the earliest to respond to this call was Adeana Young, the Green Party’s 2021 federal candidate for Skeena-Bulkley Valley riding in northwest B.C.
Young shared her story in three sentences on the BC Green Party’s platform: “I’ve been a renter all my life. It doesn’t count for anything. I’m going to be homeless on Nov. 1.”
A Haida, Young grew up in Masset and has been a renter since the age of 17 when she moved out of her parents’ house.
A prominent political figure on Haida Gwaii, she served as an Old Massett band councillor for 10 years, is a school board trustee for School District 50 and serves on several other boards.
However, despite a stellar reference and stable income, Young, her husband and four children are at risk of homelessness due to the housing shortage on Haida Gwaii.
Prior to this year, the family had rented a duplex for more than eight years but then moved out after the cost of maintenance and repair works started eating into her finances.
The homeowners did not live on Haida Gwaii and Young had to foot the bill for all repairs such as fixing windows, ventilation, pipes and bathroom leaks.
According to findings of the 2020 Village of Masset Housing Needs Report, most of Masset’s housing was built before 1980, with the majority being built between 1961 and 1980 by the Department of National Defense.
Out 370 households in 2016, 260 (70 per cent) are owner households and 105 (30 per cent) are renter households.
Based on the 2016 census, 90 households in the Village of Masset are in homes requiring major repairs.
Similarly, on-reserve Old Massett housing was never an option since it has never been adequate for the Indigenous people,Young said.
“I think it’s fair to say that affordability and housing on reserves has never met the standard for us to even have the quality of life that we want.”
There are several abandoned houses on reserve which could be renovated and rebuilt but political barriers have prevented those from happening, said Young who was an Old Masset band councillor for over 10 years.
“The bureaucracy for our village councils to be able to obtain the funding that we need to be able to buy a home or to renovate a home so that we don’t go homeless is hard and we need to we need to make those political changes,” said Young.
Currently Young is living in a house rented on a six-month lease since January. The homeowner extended Young’s lease until the end of October seeing how she was unsuccessful in securing a place.
However, next month the homeowner will be returning to the island to live in the house, said Young, leaving her family with no option but to move out.
While a relative has offered to house them Young is unsure how the temporary fix will help solve a problem that is deep rooted.
According to Young the housing crisis is compounded by outsiders and people who do not live in town, buying a lot of houses on Haida Gwaii and using them as short term rentals.
“I think it’s safe to say that a majority of the houses that are being bought, are being bought by people who are not Haida Gwaii residents and if there are people who live within Masset or Haida Gwaii that are buying the houses, they’re not buying them to rent them out to people living here they’re buying them to make a profit – they use them as Airbnb,” said Young.
Based on the findings of the Village of Masset housing report, 21 per cent of private dwellings (approximately 100 homes) are not utilized permanently and are either vacant, used as vacation homes or short term rentals.
Young said that in Masset, most of the homes are being rented out to health-care workers or other high-paying guaranteed-income contractors who travel to Haida Gwaii, mostly because these professionals come to the island with a job that will pay the rent and that is a type of financial security for homeowners when they rent out their places, she said.
Young said she would hate to move away from Haida Gwaii due to the housing crisis.
“My whole being and my whole heart is in the representation and advocacy of Haida Gwaii. And then to just get up and move because of a housing crisis, it sounds crazy, but that’s not necessarily a good enough reason for me to move away.”
Binny Paul, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Terrace Standard