If you worked in any of these countries, you could be due a Tax Refund

Moving to Vancouver: Finding Affordable Accommodation in North America’s Most Expensive City

If you’re making the move to Vancouver, you may find yourself a little strapped for cash – According to The Economist, Vancouver is statistically the most expensive city in the North American continent for the year 2014, beating the even the Big Apple when it comes to the average cost of living.

If you’re making the move to Vancouver, you may find yourself a little strapped for cash – According to The Economist, Vancouver is statistically the most expensive city in the North American continent for the year 2014, beating the even the Big Apple when it comes to the average cost of living. Don’t be put off though! One of the biggest ways you can reduce your expenditure when moving to a new country is by making sure that you’re not overspending on your accommodation. We’ve put together an overview of the options you have when it comes to finding affordable accommodation, and asked for some tips from Toby, a student doing his placement in Vancouver:


Despite being a household name in the USA and Canada, Craigslist might seem daunting if you’re moving from abroad and conjure up some rather seedy imagery: However, it’s one of the most helpful resources available for finding things on a budget in the North American continent.

Toby: Because I really wanted to get my money’s worth, I spent a great deal of time on Craigslist looking at housing options and building up an idea of pricing depending on a number of factors like the size of the bedroom, what kind of area the place was in, and it’s proximity to shops, downtown, and transport systems like the Sky Train. I did my research - If the place looked great but the price was lower than expected, I’d make sure I found out why. All it takes is a bit of investigating and a healthy dose of common sense, and you’ll be able to find a great place at an affordable price.

The average rental price in Vancouver is around $1,450 per month for a one-bedroom apartment in the city centre, and $1,000 per month for one further out (excluding bills). Obviously if you go for a house share, it will be much cheaper, and Craigslist is a good place to start looking if this is the sort of accommodation you’re after. You can find boarding options for as little as $400/500 in pleasant neighborhoods and homes, and even very decent flat shares in the city centre for below $1000.

Toby: The place I ended up getting was downtown at an iconic location called Marinaside Cresent – it’s on a lot of tourist literature for Vancouver because it looks so cool. I shared with three other people in a large apartment with a brilliant floor-to-ceiling window view over the dock and the mountains in North Vancouver. My room was  a decent size, and I had access to amenities which included a full gym, sauna and swimming pool, as well as a bookable theatre room with a proper setup (A lot of the larger apartment buildings in Vancouver have complimentary facilities like this, so keep your eyes peeled!) I paid $900 a month for the place including utilities which was an absolute steal – it just goes to show, you don’t have to settle for a pokey studio in East Hastings!

Obviously, Toby here was extremely lucky with his accommodation, but you can still find some seriously decent places depending on how thorough you are with your search. However, as with any personal ads, use your head – make sure it’s the real deal before you hand over any cash, and get something in writing before you commit to a rental. If you’re renting an unfurnished place, Craigslist is also a great place to find pre-loved furnishings at a cheap price, or even for free.

The average Canadian tax refund is $998


Some other options for cheap accommodation are:

Co-op Housing

Not to be confused with the rather more expensive and deeply exclusive Housing Cooperatives found in cities like New York, Co-op Housing is a bit of a hidden gem in Vancouver, according to the Huffington Post. They’re not that publically advertised, which is why they’re hard to come across. They’re non-profit, with the concept operating around a more democratic and community focused model than if you were to rent an apartment in a traditional privately-owned building. If you live in one, you have a vote in the way the building is run, and as long as you’re a considerate neighbor you won’t risk eviction or rent-hikes. If you think this sounds like hippie nonsense, think again – there are 264 co-op buildings in British Columbia totaling 14,000 apartments, physically the same as an average privately owned accommodation building but at half the price. You can rent a spacious apartment in downtown Vancouver for around $700.

Do bear in mind that this type of accommodation is a bit of a unicorn, though. You’ll probably have to hunt for vacancies, and even if you do find them, you’ll be subject to interviews and background checks (again, the community model). Additionally, they might not take you if you’re only staying in Vancouver for a short time – around 1/5th of co-op dwellers in Canada are immigrants, however, so you may get lucky. 

Vancouver Native Housing Society

Vancouver Native Housing Society was originally set up as a service for displaced Native Americans, but now offers secure and affordable housing solutions for demographics that might not be able to afford a place otherwise, including young people, single people and students. The VNHS manages around 17 buildings with 706 apartments in Vancouver; however, the accommodation is means tested, so you may only be eligible if you fall under certain circumstances (means testing does not apply if you’re a student, however). There is a waiting list, so this might be something you’d want to look into well in advance of your trip – you can find more information on the Q&A on their website here.

Facebook and other accommodation groups

Looking for accommodation on Facebook or other forms of social media may seem daunting for some, but actually it can be an extremely comforting resource if you’re striking out on your own. There are a huge number of Facebook groups being constantly updated. I won’t list any here, as social media is a capricious beast and the chances are the links will not be viable in a few months, but that’s the beauty of it – Groups for people looking to share housing in Vancouver and other Canadian cities are constantly being updated and created. Join one, and you might be able to get to know some future housemates and lifelong friends, and take the edge off moving to an entirely new country. 

About The Author

Lisa Gibbons - Business Development Manager @ Taxback.com

A motivated marketing/events professional. Ability to understand customer needs and develop customer relationships effectively. A passionate individual with the skills to drive business opportunities.

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