The rising costs of rental units and critically low vacancy rates in Vancouver have created a housing crisis in a city where home ownership has been out of reach for many residents.

Those who have been priced out of Vancouver’s real estate market – where detached homes can go for millions of dollars -- are now increasingly unable to afford rent, experts say.

“We have an almost unprecedented crisis in the city of Vancouver,” housing advocate Iain Marjoribanks told CTV News.

“We have a vacancy rate of 0.5 per cent and that was only rivalled in the 1970s,” said the researcher at University of British Columbia’s school of community and regional planning.

Housing advocates say affordable rentals are disappearing because property owners want to maximize profits. Older buildings are often torn down to make way for more lucrative condo units.

Lucas Gallagher, who rented an affordable apartment for years, said he and his wife recently got an eviction notice. Their building was sold and the new owners wanted everyone out so they could renovate.

“It’s really disheartening,” Gallagher told CTV News. “Having your home ripped out from under you is not an easy thing to take.”

University student Dario Garousian described his apartment search as soul-crushing. Last week, he snapped a photo of more than 40 people linked up to view an available bachelor suite. The small apartment was “nothing special – just a place to live,” he said, but it still cost close to a thousand dollars per month.

Finding a new place to live could be difficult for many in search of affordable homes. According to Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation figures, the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Vancouver was more than $1,600 last October. The latest data will be available next month.

“Rents have been rising very rapidly over the last year,” said Tom Davidoff, an associate professor at UBC’s Sauder School of Business. “I think they are on pace to grow 20 per cent.”

The city has already launched several initiatives aimed at creating more housing. For example, development fees have been reduced to entice builders to create more rental units.

But Mayor Gregor Robertson says that’s not enough and the city needs help from other levels of government.

“We are offering 20 sites of city land to the federal and provincial government to give us matching dollars to build more affordable rental housing,” he said.

The city is also introducing a vacancy tax. It's estimated that there are more than 10,000 empty units in Vancouver, most of them condos used as investments.

The hope is that a new tax will help free up more rental stock and raise money to fund new housing.

With a report from CTV’s Melanie Nagy in Vancouver