Poor rental market forces local family to consider leaving town

MELISSA SMYTHE and her children Vilita Rose, left, Malachi and Zeliscia, right, will have to say goodbye to the big backyard they have enjoyed for the past four years when they move out of their home in August.  - Kat lee PHOTO
MELISSA SMYTHE and her children Vilita Rose, left, Malachi and Zeliscia, right, will have to say goodbye to the big backyard they have enjoyed for the past four years when they move out of their home in August.
— image credit: Kat lee PHOTO

A nice house with room for her family to live in comfortably.

A big kitchen, family dinners, activities in a big back yard, and extended family over to spend time with.

That’s what 25-year-old mother of three Melissa Smythe wants, and what her family has had for the last four and a half years.

But her landlords are now selling the three-level house on the 2500 block of Molitor Street, and Smythe and her family have to be out of their home by the middle of August.

She’s looked around but can’t find anywhere to move her family.

She and her husband both work full time but can’t get a mortgage for another five years due to previous financial situations. Their children are six, five and three years old, and Smythe’s father lives in the basement and helps out with the kids.

And she’s finding there are very few places in Terrace for large families to rent.

Smythe has looked at newspapers, called housing organizations, and has even driven around town looking for rental signs. She put her name on the list for Muks Kum Ol housing last November after her landlord told her they would maybe sell the house in the spring.

Nothing has come up.

“The rental market here is terrible,” said Stacey Tyers, executive director for the Terrace Anti-Poverty Group. They’ve had clients approach them with housing problems, but Tyers says there are hardly any decent affordable rentals in town right now. People are selling and buying their own houses now, which means there are fewer rentals available.

“We’re seeing it all over town now, and it’s an increasing problem,” Tyers said. “People just can’t find anything.”

Muks Kum Ol housing is for First Nations only, and the Ksan House Society has some housing for women coming out of abusive relationships and housing for mental health clients. The society also has subsidized housing at Skeena Kalum Housing on the south side, but space is limited.

“Honestly, there’s just nothing for families, especially for working families,” Tyers said.

The executive director of the Ksan House Society agrees.

“Housing in Terrace is a huge, huge issue,” Carol Sabo said. “There’s nowhere to rent, period.”

Apartments on Kenney Street burned down a few years ago, and low-income housing on Scott Avenue has been replaced by middle-income housing now known as the Keystones.

“It’s hard for tons of people, whether it’s poor or working class, or middle income, there’s just not a lot of places to rent,” Sabo said.

Sabo says the society is willing to even go so far as screening some of the potential renters for landlords who may be hesitant to rent. She’s asking landlords with empty places to give her a call.

It’s getting to the point where Sabo says women and their children are coming to the transition house because they have nowhere to live. The people would be happy to rent a place, she says, but there is nowhere to rent.

Smythe herself has considered taking her children to the women’s shelter if she can’t find a place for her family by the move-out date. Either that, or she’ll take her two youngest daughters and move in with her sister and her sister’s child in their two-bedroom apartment. Her husband will take their oldest boy and live with his family. She doesn’t know what would happen to her father.

“I can’t see us not living with him,” Smythe said of her father. That’s the worst-case scenario.

“I want to keep my family together,” she said.

Ideally, she’s looking for a four-bedroom house to rent, with space for her kids to play.

“I want something nice, where I can raise my kids in a nice home,” she said. “I want to live there long-term.”

An apartment would have no yard, a duplex would be small and cramped, and she’d have to pay for storage for their furniture. They’ve worked hard to assemble their household over the last few years, and Smythe doesn’t want to sell their belongings only to have to buy more later.

Added to that, she doesn’t want to put her kids through the trauma of constant moving.

Smythe has two friends who have moved out of town because they couldn’t find a place for their large families to live.

She may end up doing that herself. She’s visited Prince Rupert looking for a suitable home, and says she and her husband will move there if they need to. She doesn’t want to, but she can’t find accommodation for her family in town. She’ll keep looking until the bitter end, though, hoping a place comes up.

“If Terrace wants to grow,” she said, “people need places to stay.”

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