By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities
Canadian cities such as Vancouver share a common problem with U.S. cities – a severe shortage of affordable housing. The typical young family with children simply cannot afford to buy – or even rent – the rare detached single family home in Vancouver. Densely packed housing such as condominiums – known as strata in British Columbia – and co-op apartments are the norm.
City living spaces tend to be small, and many apartment-style units have only two bedrooms. In Vancouver, the limited supply of affordable co-op housing is subject to rent control. But demand is so high that applicants are chosen by lottery – just for the grueling and competitive interview process with the co-op board.
Kristjan Gottfried and his wife, Michelle Hurtig, are raising their 2-year old son in a city apartment. As they explain in a CBC interview, both were excited about being considered by a co-op board for a 2-bedroom unit with rent nearly $1,000 per year lower than what they currently pay. The boost to their household budget would have been huge relief for the family, especially with second child on the way.
Then…according to the couple, during the interview, the co-op board asked the couple if they happened to know the sex of their unborn baby.
Read the article below to find out why.
‘Completely outrageous’: Couple say they were denied co-op apartment over sex of baby
Co-op board blames applicant and volunteer, saying family was never being considered for the unit
By Rosa Marchitelli, CBC News Posted: Sep 18, 2017 2:00 AM PT Last Updated: Sep 18, 2017 6:12 AM PT
A Vancouver family believes they were denied a unit in a co-op housing complex because their baby is a girl and not a boy.
When Kristjan Gottfried and his wife Michelle Hurtig got the news they were first in line for an apartment in a co-op housing complex in one of the most desirable and expensive cities in the country, they felt like they’d won the lottery.
They never imagined standing in the way of claiming that jackpot was the sex of their unborn baby.
Read more: (includes voice mail podcast)
This is a prime example of how, in Canada as well as the U.S., government housing policies tend to get in the way of providing affordable housing for some of the most deserving people.
Gottfried and Hurtig believe that, had their second child turned out the be a boy, the co-op board would have approved their application for a 2-bedroom apartment. But because the new baby turned out to be a girl who would have to share bedroom with her big brother, they believe the co-op board decided to consider other applicants. The co-op board member’s voice mail recording appears to support their claim.
Is this a case of housing discrimination against families with children? Should Vancouver city government reconsider its outdated law, and allow parents to decide when and if their children share a bedroom?
There are other considerations, too. Do city governments want to attract and keep residents of all ages, including working adults and parents? If so, Vancouver – and many large cities in Canada and the U.S. – need to provide housing that works for families with children.
At least three bedrooms. Storage space for children’s toys, school supplies, bicycles, sports gear, and more. Safe indoor and outdoor spaces to gather and play. Soundproofed units to prevent noise complaints from neighbors. Schools that can accommodate increases in enrollment.
And, yes, that probably means decreasing housing density to more realistic, sustainable levels. It also means that, instead of building multimillion dollar, largely unoccupied condos for international investors, cities need to focus on providing housing for people who actually live and work in their cities.
Unfortunately, since city planners and housing developers have consistently failed to consider the practical housing needs of families, the vast majority of parents, like Gottfried and Hurtig, are forced to move farther away from urban centers, where they can better afford to rent or purchase larger living spaces in more welcoming communities.