Question: In 2021 Invermere conducted a housing needs assessment that underscored the district’s affordable housing crunch, the acute lack of long-term and seasonal rentals, and the growing disparity between median incomes and median home prices in Invermere. What are your thoughts on the crisis and what specific steps will you take as councillor to address it?
“This is an issue that we share with most parts of this province and this country. I believe that we need to prioritize long-term rentals over seasonal rentals, as the labor crunch has become so acute that with businesses such as Panorama and other resorts operating year round, we are able to provide full time employment even in the service sector, which previously was more seasonal .
I believe that as a council we will need to make some hard decisions in regards to zoning and development fees as other municipalities do, so that we are able to provide some smaller apartment-type and condominium rental suites to house this staff. This could be expanded to include units for sale . This will allow first time buyers to enter the market at an affordable price. We don’t have to look too far away – Calgary for example – to see some interesting concepts developing such as laneway suites and houses. These lower-priced housing options will lessen the gap between median income and median home prices.”
“There has been enough study of housing needs in Invermere. If I am elected to council, I would make decisions on these issues as soon as possible.
In 2021, Invermere published the ‘Invermere Community Housing Needs – Final Report’. This study showed the disparities that exist between the housing needs of the population and the availability, affordability and variety of housing stock within Invermere.
In 2022, the Chamber of Commerce spearheaded a joint examination of housing needs in cooperation with Invermere, Radium Hot Springs, Canal Flats, and Areas F and G. This resulted in the formation of the Columbia Valley Housing Society. The Society’s mission is “…to own and manage housing that results in opportunities for living and employment in the Columbia Valley”.
The 2021 Report will be informing the work of the Society, with respect to the housing needs in Invermere and the surrounding communities. The report identified, through respondent interviews and published data, the need to consider housing options such as: seniors’ housing, including aging in place; secondary suites in existing homes; purpose built rental units; high density housing, including duplexes, townhomes; resident restricted and workforce housing and; smaller scale single family homes.
I would work cooperatively with the Society to ensure it reaches its goals. This includes working with the business community to ensure their workers can find suitable places to live. I would seek to streamline the approval process for developments that are designed to fill the need for attainable and affordable housing in our communities.“
“My first thought on the housing crisis is that it’s time to talk about the elephant in the room: vacant second homes. In 2016 they made up around 32 per cen of our housing, which, in my opinion, is an appalling amount. Part time residents were a wonderful and necessary part of Invermere’s growth, however, luxury homes are now pricing locals and young full time families out of the housing market.
We need a strategic plan for visitor accommodation to help keep housing available and affordable for people employed here or living here permanently. The arrival of corporate chain stores at the crossroads is an indicator that we can sustain a healthy economy without adding more part-time residents.
The Columbia Valley Housing Society has funding for a staff person to find funds to help build housing. We know our existing housing and our housing needs. We need to consider policy, land use, zoning and transportation together with the other regional districts. Plan the work. Work the plan.
Steps I would explore as a councillor: Can we create a ‘need to reside’ policy for homeowners going forward? Can we mandate that short term rental (STR) owners be permanent residents? Ask the provincial government for a new housing classification for vacant second homes with a higher property tax bracket. Ask the provincial government to implement the existing speculation and vacancy tax in our area.
As your councillor I want us to focus on long term sustainability over short term profit.”
“Dealing with the housing crisis is definitely going to have to be a team effort between all levels of government and involve a variety of solutions.
I would like to see us work towards establishing an area where tiny homes are made legitimate housing options. There are many who would genuinely be happy in a tiny home.
We need to find ways to make the building of first homes more attractive to developers: seniors housing, tiny homes, family housing, assisted living, staff housing. We need to make our local community members our first priority.
And we absolutely need to help landlords out so renting to long term tenants is attractive to them. If they have no recourse in regards to damage or delinquent payment, why would they want to rent?
This is a multi-pronged issue with so many parts to address. It is impossible to truly delve into it with so few words allotted.”
Yes. We have a housing crisis in Invermere. And, we have had one for some time.
Drawing from the latest census data, Invermere shows a shortage of housing options for certain specific demographics. The data points to a need to provide year-round rental housing for seasonal workers and low to moderate income families. We need affordable home options for permanent Invermere residents. This also includes seniors and long-term care, as well to facilitate aging in place.
After researching our issues and evaluating recommendations, I believe the DOI should seek a developer who would build apartments; configurations of two to three bedrooms that could be made available as short- and long-term rentals. This would align with DOI’s official community plan for high density house strategies.
With this type of housing, seasonal workers would have the accommodation required to attract staff to support our business, pursue growth and meet the needs of young families and residents starting out. New housing options aimed at increasing the size of the rental market would provide security and the means for those to develop their financial plans aimed at home ownership.
The scope of the housing shortage unfortunately, is not something the DOI can solve on its own. As I write this response, a story on CBC Radio is discussing the acute shortage of long term care in B.C. This underscores how poorly the province is dealing with housing in general, and the needs of an aging population.
I should note council’s priorities for 2023-2026 include a housing strategy with the Columbia Valley Housing Society. The acceleration of this strategy would be my priority as soon as I am elected. We need “beds for heads” now.