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Vancouver senior offers $350 'finder's fee' for rental accommodation

Derek Stephen, 66, has to vacate his basement suite by Aug. 1.
Derek Stephen was on Commercial Drive Tuesday posting ads for a $350 “finder’s fee” in an effort to find a new place to live after being told he has to move out of his basement suite near the PNE grounds by Aug. 1.

Derek Stephen is so desperate to find an apartment to rent in Vancouver or Burnaby that he is offering a $350 finder’s fee to anyone who can help him locate a new place to live.

Maybe you’ve seen his posts on Facebook or Craigslist — or on light poles along Commercial Drive, or on community message boards at Trout Lake.

Stephen initially set the price at $250, then raised it to $350.

This week, the 66-year-old semi-retired warehouseman told Glacier Media that he has considered bumping the fee to $500 after a month of failing to find decent accommodation for under $2,000 per month.

“People talk about affordable rental and safe places for rent in East Vancouver for $1,400 or $1,600 per month,” he said. “Well, you have to look at those to see what kind of places they are. They're not really livable. They’re dumps, basically.”

$1,167 per month

Stephen currently pays $1,167 per month, with heat and light included, for a basement suite in an old house near the PNE grounds. He’s lived there for six years and shares the entire house with other tenants, who live upstairs.

Ideally, he said, he wants to find a similar place, whether it be in East Vancouver, north or south Burnaby, where he can access a yard or green space. He’s single, doesn’t drink or smoke and has a cat.

Stephen and the tenants upstairs have to give up their accommodation because the landlord wants to move his family into the house, including a sister into the basement.

Stephen has contacted the Residential Tenancy Branch about his pending Aug. 1 eviction, but isn’t sure if he has a case over whether “sister” — as indicated on his eviction notice — meets the definition of a landlord’s “close family member.”

But, he added, even if he does have a case, and he gets a positive result in a hearing, the thought of living in a place where the landlord wants him gone doesn’t seem like a long-term solution for his housing needs.

“I'm being put between a rock and a hard place on this,” he said, noting he could potentially lose a positive referral from the landlord, if he takes action against the eviction.

Derek Stephen has posted ads like this one along Commercial Drive in Vancouver. Photo Mike Howell

'They must be living out of a suitcase'

By his count, Stephen has inquired about 30 places for rent, but rarely does anyone respond. When they do, it’s for a place that is either dirty, dilapidated, small or in neighbourhoods where street disorder is an issue.

Stephen, who was born and raised in the city, never imagined he would have to take such a measure to secure a home and settle into retirement, but Vancouver is no longer the place he remembers.

“I never thought [Vancouver] would [become] so expensive, especially for housing,” he said.

He’s on a limited budget, with $1,850 per month from Old Age Security and the Canada Pension Plan. His work pension of about $1,100 a month doesn’t kick in until he turns 67.

He said he’s forced to take part-time jobs to supplement his income, which helps pay for food, bills and insurance, gas and maintenance on his 2010 Ford Ranger pickup.

“I figure I'm still one of the ones that are better off because there are a lot of people that are getting a lot less than I am,” he said. “And how the hell are they doing it? They must be living out of a suitcase.”

His ads, he said, have attracted various people, including a woman who stopped to speak to him Tuesday morning on the Drive. She noticed Stephen posting his ad to a light pole and said she might know of an available suite.

“That’s great, thank you,” said Stephen, as the woman took a photograph of the ad with her phone.

If he finds a place via his ad, he’s hoping the person who helps him find it will be someone who could use the money. If he doesn’t find a place, he expects to pay $500 to store his personal belongings for at least three months.

And where will he live?

“I have no idea, and I’d hate to do a month-to-month rental in some place where I don’t want to be,” he said, referring to a single-room-occupancy building or an Airbnb rental. “We’ll see, but it’s got a lot do with luck, too.”

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