Housing stock in the Lower Columbia Region is old and not very attainable for the new, younger homebuyer, according to a recent presentation. Janet Morton, chair of the Lower Columbia Community Development Team, Attainable Housing Committee talked to Rossland council last week.
Morton said there were key points that council should consider, the first being the importance of attainable housing. She said that housing should be looked at as a dynamic system requiring regional planning and co-operation.
The committee attempts to look at the full-housing spectrum, from non-market public housing to market rental and private homes.
“Complacency is not an option,” she said, since the housing stock has shown to be quite aged.
How old is it?
The provincial average for housing older than 40 years is 31.2 per cent, while in the Lower Columbia it is more than double at 65.8 per cent. Castlegar jumps out of the trend with a younger housing stock – 43.8 per cent over 40 years old.
The numbers don’t look much better when you look at 25 and older. In this category the standard in B.C. is 61.9 per cent, while in the Lower Columbia it is a whopping 90.4 per cent of homes. Castlegar once again runs in at a lower 75.6 per cent.
In Rossland, a large proportion of the houses were built from 1920 to 1945. According to Statistics Canada 2006 numbers, 35.1 per cent were of that vintage, only Trail is near that number with a 36.7 per cent.
Over 50 per cent of Rossland homes were built between 1946 and 1985.
Of those houses almost 14 per cent require major repairs. Over the whole region, the per cent of homes that need major repairs drops to 10.7 per cent, with the B.C. average being 7.4 per cent.
There is also not much diversity in housing, with 80 per cent of homes being single-family dwellings in the region, while only 50 per cent are in the province.
Morton said by 2021 a quarter of the population in the region will be over 65 years old.
“By 2021, we’re going to need an extra 142 units of seniors housing,” she said.
The Lower Columbia Region is lagging behind in senior housing as well. Currently, there are 10 dedicated units for every 100 senior citizens in the region, compared to Kelowna, which has 14 units/100 seniors.
“They go out of their way to attract seniors to their region,” she said of Kelowna, adding that here, seniors will likely be able to afford these places by selling their current homes.
“If seniors are going to be successful selling the family homes, there is likely going to need to be some modernization of those homes in order to be attractive to the young home buyer, who is typically less willing to put on the tool belt,” she said.
“What we’re hearing from a lot of the real estate folks, is young people want the modern stuff, they want the modern kitchens, they want the modern bathrooms, and if they can get it, then that’s where they’re going to go and buy the houses.”
She believes that is leading to an “exodus” of people leaving the area.
Another area she looked at was the amount of low-income housing.
“I have been shocked at some of the costs of rental housing for the very low income, and what it’s costing compared to what their income is,” she said. “To say nothing of the condition of some of the places they are renting.”
Morton said the committee was formed because there were many people not finding the housing that they wanted in the region. She argued that by not offering what they want, those people would look elsewhere.
The committee was formed in 2008 and is dedicated to that sole purpose.
One point that may give Rossland an edge is the recently completed energy diet, which helped many upgrade their homes.
Coun. Cary Fisher asked where they will go from here.
Morton said they would like to see more action in terms of addressing those special needs populations, as well as working with local government and encouraging some local policies that need to be made.
“We will likely come back in the fall, at the beginning of budget season and talk to you about what we need for a level of support,” Morton said.
Coun. Jill Spearn noted that Rossland has made many zoning changes that the city has been putting through to increase housing density.
“There are a lot of people who don’t understand the goal of smaller lots and multiple housing and how we have, as a city, committed to the Rossland Sustainability Plan,” Spearn said.
Morton said she was well aware of the initiatives Rossland is up to and supports them.