Imagine being a single parent, struggling to hold down a job, raise two children and remain off welfare, only to receive a letter saying your rent is going up by 700 per cent.
This is exactly what happened to Dawson Creek's Miranda McLaren.
The single mother recently received a letter from the Dawson Creek Native Housing Society (DCNHS) informing her she will have to squeeze hundreds of extra dollars from an already tight budget.
"It's quite devastating. You work so hard and it's like 'now what am I going to do?' " McLaren told the Daily News in regards to the July 1 increase.
McLaren explained how she left an abusive relationship and has been struggling to provide a good home for her eight-year-old son and 15-year-old daughter. She started out living in an old trailer at her father's farm, but fuel costs and a 120-kilometre round trip to town left little room for improving the family's situation.
"I couldn't even get a second job. My kids would wait for me until I got off work and I would take them home, well I couldn't really drive back in," she said.
It took McLaren two years after first applying to native housing before being able to move to Dawson Creek.
McLaren said this has given her more time with her children and allowed her to provide a healthy home environment. The increased rent could force her to take a second job, make her a stranger in her own home and put her daughter in the role of mother.
"They're not only hurting me, they're hurting my kids," she said. "I can't always ask my daughter to babysit. That's not fair to her either. She doesn't need to be a mom at 15."
DCNHS housing manager Terry Pocock said they have no desire to raise rents for the tenants, but there is no other option at this point.
"To survive, we have to put the rents up," Pocock said, adding, even with the increases, the society will "still be in the red."
The issue stems from a mid-80s federal program called the Urban Native agreement that assisted Aboriginal non-profit housing providers to purchase units. While the providers were paying mortgages on the houses, the government would pay subsidies.
DCNHS's first purchase was 20 units dubbed Phase One, and includes the house where McLaren lives. Now that the Phase One housing mortgages are paid, Dawson Creek Native Housing owns the properties free and clear, but loses the subsidies.
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Pocock said they are working on finding new funding with the provincial government, that inherited the program in 2006, to assist tenants like McLaren, but have yet to have any luck.
"We know it is creating a hardship with our tenants, and we've written letters to all levels of government, had a meeting with BC Housing, and Aboriginal Housing the bottom line is there's no money out there to subsidize these units any longer," she said.
Pocock added despite the need to raise the rents, the Phase One houses remain some of the least expensive rental units in Dawson Creek at about $800 a month.
"The average rent is $1,200 and that's for an apartment building," she said.
Phase One was Native Housing's largest purchase, but there have been four additional phases, with Phase Six being the elder housing currently being constructed on 17 Street.
Each of these phases will experience similar increases beginning with Phase Two in December.
A public affairs manager with BC Housings provided some of the details in this story. The information also indicated they would continue working with societies who have expiring agreements, like DCNHS, to help determine other possible options.