Living in the Lower Mainland means a hyper-awareness of the housing affordability crisis. It is impossible to ignore the uncomfortable reality that the Lower Mainland is an expensive place to live. Similarly, in Positive Living, Positive Homes (PLPH for short), a community-based research study, it became evident that the housing affordability crisis in the Lower Mainland was very relevant for some people living with HIV (PLHIV) who participated in the study. Some participants talked about the fear of losing their homes as rental costs skyrocketed – and in the process, worried about losing access to services and support networks. Others navigated incredibly difficult situations in order to keep a roof over their heads. For example, some participants chose to continue living with people that negatively impacted their health, while others stuck it out with neighbours or landlords that caused them stress. Concerns about cost of living forced many to make challenging and painful decisions, sometimes at the cost of their own well-being.
Geography in relation to the housing affordability crisis also frequently came into play. Some participants talked about wanting to move to Vancouver’s West End (widely considered to be the hub and focal point of services for PLHIV) but did not have the resources to make such a move. Others found themselves financially stuck in communities that did not have the services they required, or struggling to stay afloat financially to live in a community they felt was safe for them. Evidently, choosing where to live can become a trade-off in terms of what you need in your community and where you can afford to physically be.
The housing affordability crisis in the Lower Mainland is ongoing, and analysis of participants’ responses showed resilience and adaptability. Participants described looking for and connecting with resources and community services that resulted in them finding more appropriate housing. Many participants spoke about feeling motivated to find housing that worked for them because they wanted their children to have a safe place to live and play. Though the affordability crisis set up many roadblocks, it is encouraging to hear how many participants found success and stability as a result of their own self-advocacy.
In closing, I offer two points of reflection. First, while we know that the housing affordability crisis touches everyone living in the Lower Mainland the findings from the PLPH study also illustrates unique challenges for PLHIV as they search for and secure affordable housing that supports their health and wellness.
Secondly, service providers, allies and advocates need to ask themselves whether the burden of advocacy around affordable housing should only fall on the shoulders of PLHIV. Service providers need to work in partnership with PLHIV to find solutions to housing affordability. PLHIV have demonstrated resilience and strength in naming what they need personally to find solutions for increased stability but also what needs to change systemically. We need to listen to these messages and all work together for change.
Questions? Comments? Please contact Madeline Gallard, Community-Based Research Coordinator at [email protected].