It's an eye-catching offer for apartment hunters – $850 for a bedroom in downtown Vancouver – but the listings popping up online come with a catch, and are a symptom of a much larger housing problem.

As renters struggle to find affordable accommodations in Canada's most expensive market, they're often drawn to seemingly too-good-to-be-true postings.

Landlords have taken to advertising dens at a discounted price, and listing the rooms not much larger than closets for hundreds of dollars a month.

Den rentals are becoming more common, some renters told CTV News.

"When I was looking for a place there were all sorts of these places coming up," a Simon Fraser University student said.

Another said she knows someone living in Yaletown and paying about $800 for a sunroom. She knows others who share a single bedroom because they can't afford more square footage.

"It's an increasing policy of racking, packing and stacking our renters," said Andy Yan, SFU's city program director.

Yan said it speaks to the desperation of renters in an area with extremely low vacancy and sky high average rents.

Incomes in Metro Vancouver haven't kept up with the increase in cost of living, he added.

"We're, I think, facing a bigger challenge that is pretty much unseen in the rest of North America."

Yan said there needs to be more government policy aimed at helping renters, especially when buying a home is becoming more out of reach.

Vancouver's assistant director of housing policy acknowledged the rapid escalation in rent in recent years, including in newly built rental buildings. Dan Garrison said the city hopes to avoid high rates in future developments with help from a new pilot program.

"We'll secure a portion of the units in those projects – at least 20 per cent of the units – at rents that are affordable to households with incomes between $30,000 and $80,000 a year, and those will be maintained affordable in perpetuity," Garrison said.

But for now, creative rental solutions are the only option.

"As horrible as that sounds. Like, who wants to rent a shoebox for $600 a month? That's just how people are adapting," a student named Ruby said.

With a report from CTV Vancouver's Maria Weisgarber