-Written by Steph
Right alongside “How the hell do you eat on $230/month?!”, another thing we get asked about a lot is housing. Some people have this weird idea that housing is expensive in Vancouver, that you can’t get a livable place for less than $1000 (or $1500 or $2000)/month, that you can never find a place at all affordable if you have a pet, or any number of weird beliefs not grounded in reality. I suspect it’s due to spending a lot more time watching TV and reading the news than actually looking at apartment listings and using price filters on housing websites.
In any case, below is a brief summary of each apartment I’ve had, what it cost, and what I got for the money. All places were completely private – no shared accommodation, no shared kitchen, no shared bathroom, etc.
I moved to Vancouver in February of 2005, shortly after I turned 18. My first apartment was a $450 basement suite in Kerrisdale. It came fully furnished, had free laundry, and included utilities. It had a covered patio and got quite a bit of natural light. I had a separate bedroom, living/dining room, bathroom, storage area, and “sort of” kitchen(no oven, but two hot plates, an electric frying pan, sink, microwave, fridge, and cabinets). The downside was that my landlords had to walk through my apartment to get to their storage room. I found this place through a friend of my Grandma’s.
I moved to Alberta briefly halfway through 2006 for school, and back to Vancouver September of 2007 with my newly adopted cat Anthony in tow. This time, I found a $600 basement suite in Mount Pleasant just north of Queen Elizabeth Park. It was unfurnished, and had a nice fenced back yard with lots of trees for Anthony to climb – and as a bonus, cat doors! It also had a separate bedroom, bathroom, and living/dining room, but also had a full kitchen unlike my first Vancouver apartment. Though it wasn’t as nice and had less natural light. Laundry was included, but I paid a portion of utilities that averaged $50/month. I found this apartment through the househunting.ca website.
In December of 2008, the place sprung a leak (never quite figured that one out) and I was forced to find a new place. I moved to a $625 2nd floor bachelor suite in north Mount Pleasant, not too far from the last place but a much faster bus ride to work. It had a separate kitchen and bathroom, one large space that was a bedroom/dining room, a small balcony, and tons of natural light. Utilities were included, but laundry wasn’t free, so I bought a washer (getting that up two flights of curved stairs was fun) and drying rack for my unit. The landlord let me put in cat doors for Anthony. I found this apartment through Craigslist.
Cel moved in with me around April of 2010, and we started to think about moving to a bigger place. We stumbled across some housing co-ops on Craigslist, which neither of us had ever heard of, and managed to get in. We currently pay $732 for our 7th floor one bedroom apartment in the downtown core, which is around 600 square feet and has a balcony. Getting into a housing co-op was a bit of a headache – the process involved interviews, references, and a credit and criminal record check for both of us, as well as a vet letter for Anthony confirming he was neutered and up to date on shots, and spending about three months on a wait list.
We have a very nice kitchen, large living/dining area, two closets, and a decent size bedroom. Utilities are included, laundry is not – but it’s only $1 to wash, and we still have a drying rack, so we decided not to replace my old washer when it eventually crapped out.
Housing co-ops really are a hidden treasure in Vancouver, as they’re cheap, central (there are a bazillion in Vancouver alone), and pet friendly. Here’s a website for anyone interested in finding one: http://www.chf.bc.ca/what-co-op-housing/find-a-co-op
And that’s it for my apartments! Happy hunting and please don’t pay $1500 for a studio suite.