Renae Podgorney said she’s been “held hostage” by a lack of rentals. The mother of two has been living out of a hotel room for the past year. (Cassidy Dankochik Photo - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)

‘It’s a nightmare’: Northern B.C. family desperate after living in hotel for a year

Renae Podgorney says because of a lack of rentals, she’s now applying to rent a one-bedroom unit

A person’s home is their castle, but for some Quesnel residents, like Renae Podgorney, the search for her own castle has been gruelling.

The mother of two is on disability and has been living at the Grace Inn for nearly a year.

“We’ve been stuck in a hotel for 11 months in a single room,” she said. “I got held hostage here. I have FASD [Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder]. I’ve been struggling.”

Rental units in Quesnel are hard to come by no matter what the situation. Podgorney said she’s viewed 10 places on her quest to find a place, but each room she’s viewed had at least 150 applicants.

Tanya Turner, Quesnel’s director of development services, said she wasn’t surprised to hear people are struggling, noting she’s heard from all kinds of people scrambling to find housing.

“I’m going to be very interested what our next population stats are,” she said. “It seems like there’s a lot more people.”

Quesnel will be releasing a new housing plan later this year.

The city’s health care recruitment co-ordinator, Beverlee Barr, works to find rental units for new health care workers. In a presentation to the Cariboo Chilcotin Regional Hospital District, she said Quesnel’s rental vacancy rate is nearly zero per cent.

The city even holds a property year round that new health care workers can live in before finding a place.

Mary Charlotte is the property manager at an apartment building with more than 20 units.

“A good rental is hard to find,” she said. “I don’t normally have many empties or any units sitting for long — maybe for maintenance or cleaning, but my units get rented fast.”

Charlotte has been the property manager at the building for six years.

“I do think that it’s been harder with COVID-19 — not as many people are moving,” she said. “But I think the turn over has been about the same over the last few years.”

Turner said a number of housing initiatives stopped because of COVID-19, adding the city is working hard to attract developers to Quesnel, but finding someone to develop the right kind of building in 2020 is proving to be a challenge.

“[Developers] want to come in here and do a 100-unit building,” Turner said. “You really need to think about the infrastructure that would need to change there. The 12- to 20-unit buildings are what we need.”

Turner said other population centres in the area, like Prince George, are facing similar problems.

READ MORE: Rental vacancy rates last year hit lowest since 2002 after third year of decline

“I moved here 20-some years ago, and back then, we really had to scrounge for apartments,” she said. “It got way better for a while, and now it seems to have gone again.”

Any solutions and new buildings might be too late for people like Podgorney, who is now so desperate to find her own place that she’s trying to rent one-bedroom apartments just to have her own place.

“I’ve gone through so much, I’m just at my limit,” she said. “From deaths in family and not being able to afford to go, to my son falling behind from lack of help … It’s a nightmare I’m living.”

READ MORE: Quesnel council moving forward with bylaw to enforce rental standards

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email: cassidy.dankochik@quesnelobserver.com


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