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As British Columbians continue to cope with skyrocketing home prices, almost 19 per cent of the province’s  seniors are living in unaffordable housing — the third highest rate among seniors in Canada.

In 2016, almost one in five seniors (aged 65+) in BC reported housing affordability challenges, according to United Way’s “B.C. Seniors’ Poverty Report Card”, published Tuesday.

This number represents households that spent 30 per cent or more of their before-tax household incomes on their housing costs.

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“BC reported the third highest incidence of housing affordability challenges among seniors in
Canada. The percentage of seniors reporting housing affordability challenges in British Columbia was similar to the rate in Canada (19.4 per cent),” reads the report.

United Way’s poverty report on BC seniors is the first of its kind and is based on the latest data from Statistics Canada.

Across the country, Ontario has the highest percentage of seniors living in unaffordable housing (21.6 per cent), followed by Quebec with 19.1 per cent. Nunavut recorded the lowest percentage of seniors facing housing challenges with three per cent.

In 2016, there were 144,790 seniors in BC facing unaffordable housing costs, but some elderly residents were more likely to encounter housing challenges compared to others across the province.

Roughly 49 per cent of senior renters lived in unaffordable housing in 2016 compared to 35.6 per cent who lived alone. For seniors who lived in Metro Vancouver during the same period, 22.4 per cent of them faced housing affordability challenges.

United Way’s report echoes recent data released from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) which says that the vacancy rate for seniors’ residences fell to three per cent in 2018, compared to 4.5 per cent in 2017.

“British Columbia’s vacancy rate for independent living spaces for seniors declined again in 2018. A growing seniors’ population continues to drive demand for seniors’ housing,” writes CMHC British Columbia senior market analyst Keith Stewart, in a statement.

To help cope with housing affordability challenges, BC Housing’s Housing Registry offers seniors non-market housing, such as social housing and co-operative housing. However, almost 6,000 seniors are on the list and it continues to grow each year.

In 2017, 5,988 senior households were on the BC Housing’s applicant registry, up nearly 59 per cent from 3,774 in 2012.

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