Welcome to Invermere. You believed that the mountains will bring peace to the people so you quit your respectable job in the Prairies, rented out your house and came to town to build a new life.
First you settled cozily into a basement suite that came with a roommate. When she moved out and you didn’t want to live with a random stranger, you left too.
You unpacked in a beautiful but illegal single-windowed suite. When that arrangement became complicated, you found yourself renting a room in an Airbnb basement suite.
There your rent included a stream of freshly-showered men – whom you had to remind yourself were almost certainly not murderers – prowling the hallway in their towels.
You couldn’t endure even a month there so you gave up the room, turned your car into a dresser and volunteered to housesit for a travelling friend.
You curled up with her dogs and worried about you would do next. You joked about enforcing squatter’s rights and refusing to leave.
Of course that’s not an option, but what other choices do you have?
You could fork over more than a mortgage payment to live in a basement suite with a dubious fire escape. Or you could opt to spend the winter in a place where the landlord recommends using a space heater you provide yourself as your not-exactly-up-to-code furnace.
Want a legit fire escape? Windows? A bathtub? A stove? A roommate of your choosing instead of a random pairing? What about a place you can share with a friend who has a cat? All of the above?
Hahahaha, aren’t you cute. Good luck recalibrating your wish list or bumping your budget way up.
(Speaking of your budget, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation says that your rent or mortgage payment, utilities and other other housing costs should be no higher than 30 per cent of your before-tax income. If you make minimum wage – like I did when I first moved to town and took a position at Fields while I looked for a longer-term career fit – your recommended housing budget should be under $660 a month.)
When you’ve ruled out all of the renting possibilities, you think about buying a place.
You go to see a mortgage broker and even with creative financing you have exactly one attainable option. You put in an offer on the place only to find out that it isn’t available for six months.
If you sell your Saskatchewan house or somehow find yourself with more borrowing power, you can upgrade to a place that’s at risk of flooding if lake levels rise, one that’s over a century old or one that’s already conditionally sold.
You consider opting for a trailer out of town but the property manager declines to answer whether you’d be allowed to have a roommate whose name isn’t on the deed.
Increasingly desperate, you ask acquaintances – whose last names you don’t even know – if they want to buy a house with you. Unsurprisingly they decline.
You give up. You buy a fitness membership. The gym closes from midnight to 4 am, foiling your emergency-backup plan of sleeping on a pile of yoga mats, but at least you’ll have access to a washroom.
Where will you live? What will you do? You only have two weeks left at your housesitting gig.
That was my predicament until a friend connected me with a unicorn of a suite last night. After my anxiety-provoking search, I’m well aware of how lucky I am. But I’m not convinced it has to be so hard to live here.
Do we want our community to turn away would-be residents who can’t find a home? A visionary council could develop policies that would make renting and owning an option for those who want to stay.
Should the District set a minimum vacancy-rate requirement for long-term rentals before nightly room rentals are allowed? Should they require the Airbnb owner who “made a fortune” renting to temporary lodgers to have a business license? Should she need to contribute tax dollars to affordable housing initiatives?
Should residential zoning bylaws allow for smaller lots and smaller homes? Should a garage ever be a requirement when you’re building a home?
Is Facebook really the best way for people to find out about rental options? Should the District have a rental registry online?
The answers are up to you and to our new council. Whether you live on a couch or in a castle, you get to use your vote to build the community – the home – where you want to live.