Several Burnaby renters have written to me in recent weeks about being forced into shared housing situations in order to be able to afford to live in our city.
The rents are just that expensive, often ranking as the third most expensive city in all of Canada.
Shared housing can be a win-win situation. My daughter is able to live in East Vancouver by sharing a house with a large group.
But living in shared housing isn’t so good when you end up living with people involved in the local criminal underworld. I’ve heard from renters who have been bullied by drug dealers who live in the same house.
Then there is what Tamara went through in 2020 when the pandemic got her laid off from work and she struggled to afford a decent place to live. That meant she has to compromise and she ended up sharing a large house in the Metrotown area.
She met all of the people she was going to be living with and – at a distance – they discussed a little about themselves.
“I can still remember when I moved in the look on the face of this guy when I asked him what he did for a living,” Tamara said. “He kind of smirked and said he was an ‘entrepreneur’ and I thought that was vague and evasive, but I didn’t have much choice at that point. I was pretty desperate.”
Then she moved in and quickly figured out what kind of entrepreneur this guy really was.
Turns out he had a makeshift meth lab going in the basement of the house. At first, Tamara was just told that the basement was off-limits to everyone except this guy.
When she asked another tenant why, she was simply told, “Don’t ask.”
After a couple of days, Tamara started smelling some fumes wafting into her bedroom. When she asked everyone in the house about it, the entrepreneur told her that it would go away soon.
“Finally, one of the other people told me this guy was making drugs in the basement,” she said. “It was like Breaking Bad. This guy seemed pretty normal and clean-cut so it was hard to put two and two together.”
Tamara was pretty crushed because she didn’t have a lot of options. She had just moved in and that used up some of her savings just getting to that point. She didn’t want to have to move again, especially since there weren’t many other affordable options.
She could report the guy to the police, but she was warned that he had some gang connections.
In the end, Tamara put up with it for two months and then bit the bullet and moved in with her parents.
Desperate times call for desperate measures. Burnaby's rental housing situation has made this a standard situation.
Follow Chris Campbell on Twitter @shinebox44.