Ukrainian family wants to be notified of BC rental market


Ukrainians who have fled their war-torn country arrive in British Columbia and find themselves thrust into the province’s ultra-competitive rental market with little help finding a home.

Dr. Arif Qammar arrived in Canada with his wife and three children on August 15 and has spent the last two weeks desperately searching for a suitable two-bedroom house.

« When I go to see a house, there are 15 people, 20 people, 30 people waiting there, » Qammar said.

Low vacancy rates in the province’s Lower Mainland mean landlords can be picky about their tenants, with many asking for employment records and credit histories, which can immediately disqualify refugees and other newcomers.

The rental rates that even cramped accommodations can achieve have also left Qammar stunned, especially after draining much of their savings by spending around $7,000 on long, zigzag flights to Canada.

« I was going crazy, » he told CTV News. « For small basements, they charge $2,200, $2,400. »

And as they grow increasingly anxious about finding a place to live, Qammar and his family have almost fallen prey to online scammers offering to help them with hundreds of dollars – a recognized problem on the Government of British Columbia’s « Welcoming Ukraine » website.


Qammar’s family of five have lived in a hotel in Richmond since their arrival, fully funded by SUCCESS, one of the province’s largest settlement service providers.

But the hotels are meant to be a temporary measure, and Qammar said he faces daily pressure to find a permanent place – something he has struggled to do, despite repeated appeals to various organizations in the province.

Among them is the Maple Hope Foundation, which has helped nearly 70 Ukrainian families settle in British Columbia since the Russian invasion began, matching them with Canadian host families and developers willing to provide free rent.

But with no end in sight for the Ukrainian conflict, the war has lost much of the public’s attention. Housing offers for Ukrainian refugees have dried up, according to Maple Hope Foundation co-founder Svitlana Kominko.

« I think it’s human nature – we get used to things, even something horrible like that, » she said.

And while Kominko thinks the BC government has done a « great job » of helping Ukrainians by providing six months of financial assistance and helping them find jobs, she said there were little help in breaking into the expensive rental market.

« The province is not helping them in terms of housing, and that’s very unfortunate, » Kominko said. “The financial assistance is almost $1,000 a month for six months (for a single adult) – but you know the rental prices in Vancouver.


Kominko said he’s seen a number of families arrive in British Columbia and struggle for weeks to find housing, only to eventually give up and move to another province — something Qammar wishes he had known before booking his flights.

His message now to others watching Canada as they flee Ukraine: ‘Stay away from BC’

« They should be educating people not to come to BC because BC has a housing problem. They should be pushing them to go to maybe Calgary or Halifax or Hamilton or somewhere away from the big cities, » he added.

The provincial government said it could not comment on Qammar’s family’s situation for confidentiality reasons, but noted that BC Housing is continually working to help Ukrainians settle in the province.

« Our immediate focus is on housing options when people first arrive. Some of the options available are volunteer host families and short-term hotel stays, while families stabilize and are supported to connect with a range of services and longer-term housing, » the Ministry of Attorney General and Housing Officer said in an emailed statement.

« Other organizations involved in housing include the federal government, United Way and the Ukrainian Canadian Congress. »

So far, the federal government has approved 216,034 applications under the Canada-Ukraine Emergency Travel Authorization program, allowing Ukrainians to quickly resettle in the country. British Columbia could not confirm how many have come to the province.

Kominko agrees with Qammar that there should be a message warning Ukrainians to consider alternatives on the west coast, but said there is a good chance it will not reach refugees in difficult situations.

« Some have very low consciousness, or they’re so traumatized they can’t even think straight, » she said. « They go away. »


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