Metro Vancouver pet friendly housing is unaffordable: Surrey man living in U-Haul

A B.C. man with multiple sclerosis says he's struggling to find affordable pet-friendly housing in the Lower Mainland.

A Surrey man diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) has been living out of a U-Haul cargo van with his dog while attempting to find affordable pet-friendly housing.

Joe Basaraba says his life has been packed into a cargo van since the beginning of March. He says the nights are cold but he doesn’t have a choice. He lives in the van with his 11-year-old dog Wookley.

“They hear the word homeless. And it’s like I don’t matter anymore.”

Basaraba describes his van as his home where he keeps his bed, belongings, clothes, and random pieces of furniture.

“I couldn’t find a landlord that would take us seriously or let us in anywhere. I applied to everything in the Lower Mainland that allowed dogs within my price range and out of my price range. And I still couldn’t find anything,” Basaraba said.

Basaraba says he was diagnosed with MS in 2010 – a medical condition where the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks the brain and nerve cells and may cause exhaustion and body pain.

“So when I tell people I’m tired, they just think I’m lazy. I have trouble with physical stuff and physical labor. I am slowly losing the use of my arms and legs. And I don’t have any control over that.”

Because of his MS, he’s on disability payments but Basaraba says it’s not enough.

“It doesn’t cover the food, it doesn’t cover clothing. It takes care of basically rent and dog food because I make sure the dog eats first. But if we have to give up food for rent, I guess that’ll be something we have to do. I’ll figure those things out in the future.”


According to the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction, the current monthly rate for a single person on disability assistance is just over $1,300.

Basaraba says he currently feels unsafe in the Whalley neighbourhood he is in and just wants a place where he isn’t judged by landlords.

“I constantly worry that people are going to steal the van or break into it,” Basaraba said. “They see me as like homeless, potentially on drugs or bringing you that element into their home. I’m clean, I’m sober. I still get painted with that brush.”

Brendon Birkenstock, a concerned citizen who first told CityNews about Basaraba’s situation, is trying to help.

“Joe’s a really nice guy, we’ve met several times by now. ” Birkenstock said, “we looked online for other places to rent and you just can’t find anything. The only thing, we’re trying to find roommates for him so they could pay the rent together.”

In a statement to CityNews, the Ministry of Housing expressed that they acknowledge the challenges people with pets face but have received pushback from property owners.

“Concerns were raised about allergies, damage, and disturbances to other renters. Some housing providers indicated that they would rather remove homes from the rental market than be forced to allow people with pets to rent their properties,” the statement read.

“It’s difficult now. I think there’s going to be more people out on the street because it’s getting too expensive to live inside and that doesn’t feel right or Canadian. We have more than enough resources to make it happen. I think greed got in the way of it,” Basaraba said.

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