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B.C. seniors face long waits for housing amid affordability crisis

A Musqueam elder who welcomed CTV News into his deteriorating home in late April has yet to move, saying he hasn’t been given options for a place to go that are adequate.

Over the last month, Dunstan Campbell has been searching for a home accommodating his declining health. The 77-year-old struggles to walk and says he has a skin condition that requires daily attention.

Soon after he shared his story, he was offered a room in North Vancouver, but Campbell says it was temporary and came with several roommates. On Thursday, he planned on moving into another unit off reserve, but it wasn't suitable for his declining health.

"I want to move anywhere. I don't care what it is, but as long as it suits my need and health. Period," said Campbell.

The Musuqam First Nation wouldn't name Campbell directly but released a statement saying they have identified several areas of need for "the elder"; personal health and well-being, immediate housing, and state of home and property ownership.

The letter went on to say that since September, they have been in constant communication with "the elder" and have tried to help.

"Between September 2022 and May 2023, Musqueam's social worker secured and offered four viable housing options for this individual," the letter said.

This list included several off-reserve housing options, which include BC Housing, the Hollyburn Society housing program, temporary subsidized housing and staying with family members. Musqueam says he declined all options.

"Our housing department offered to secure funding for roof and flooring repairs and mould remediation, which was initially declined but is now being pursued following several meetings and agreement with the Elder," the letter read.

In the meantime, Campbell is still living in the home, and his health is not improving. He is hoping he can find a place that fits his needs and wants to remain near family and friends, but the options are limited.

According to BC Housing 29,439 households have applied for subsidized housing and are now waiting. Of those, 11,553 are households with people over the age of 55.

"We recognize that the housing affordability crisis is affecting everyone, including seniors. We have seen an increase in the number of households submitting applications to the Housing Registry, waiting for an affordable unit to become available within their preferred location," BC Housing wrote in an email.

B.C.'s Seniors Advocate, Isobel Mackenzie, says many seniors in the province are facing precarious financial circumstances, and with the rising cost of living, the chances of ending up on the streets are rising for some.

"Their ability to pay the $1800 to $2,200 a month rent for a one bedroom, it is simply not possible," said Mackenzie.

"The numbers that I've seen show that the fastest growing age cohort of homelessness is older people."

The BC Non-Profit Housing Association says in 2016, 54 percent of BC seniors were paying unaffordable rent, and they expect that number has grown.

The lack of affordability has led many seniors to scramble to make ends meet, and unexpected expenses could be devastating, said Marika Albert, the policy director for the non-profit.

"The number of seniors experiencing homelessness is on the rise," said Albert.

"In 2021, across the province, it was around 21 percent of all experiencing homelessness were seniors."

Seniors First BC reported on Thursday that eight percent of their yearly calls are for housing issues.

Nighat Afsar, a legal advocate, told CTV News that over the last year, she had assisted over 300 seniors regarding housing, including walking them through the legality of evictions and residential tenancy issues. Top Stories

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