11/17/2014 11:47 EST | Updated 01/17/2015 05:59 EST

B.C. renters facing 'affordability crunch', says new survey

British Columbians are facing a serious "affordability crunch" when it comes to rental housing,  according to a new rental housing index being released today.

The provincewide index is based on a survey of 517,000 rental households in B.C. conducted by B.C.'s Non-Profit Housing Association, which represents the social housing sector.

Executive director Tony Roy says nearly a quarter of B.C. households that rent are spending more than half their gross income on rent and utilities.

"That's a huge proportion of renters that are in what I would categorize as crisis level of spending," says Roy.

The survey found, despite Vancouver's reputation for high rents, the communities where people spend the highest proportion of their income on rent are Duncan, West Vancouver and Sooke.

Another surprise was that there's not a huge difference in the amount of rent people are paying based on their incomes, he says.

"If you look at Vancouver for example, it may be just a few hundred dollars difference that somebody who is making $10,000 to $20,000 a year is paying in rent, versus somebody who is making $75,000 to $90,000 a year."

Roy says the rental housing index is the first of its kind in Canada and they plan to produce the index on an annual basis.