By Steve Hubrecht

Plans are afoot for a unique solution to the lack of housing options for the Columbia Valley’s seasonal tourism industry workers.

The problem has been an issue in the valley for more than a decade, but has gotten markedly worse in the last few years, as the housing market has soared, and as the number of short term rentals (STRs) here has increased — consequently, the number of long-term rentals has declined.

The potential answer suggested by Radium Mayor Clara Reinhardt during the Wednesday, Mar. 9 Radium council meeting is to create a temporary “camp”, made up of trailers, for seasonal workers.

The idea, as described by Reinhardt at the meeting, sounded similar in many respects to seasonal tree planting camps, except with trailers instead of tents.

She outlined to council members that the trailers would be somewhat basic, but would have water and sewer as well as television and other amenities.

Reinhardt added that she has talked with a local landowner in Radium who is amenable to the idea of having the camp on his property.

“We’ve got a plan, we’ve got a place, but we’ve got to find a way to fund it. We’ve got to find the money,” Reinhardt told council, adding the camp would specifically be for seasonal staff.  “We really are exploring all our options… It (the housing issue) really does keep me awake at night sometimes.” 

Reinhardt later explained to the Pioneer that the idea for a camp for seasonal workers came to her after seeing a wildland firefighters’ camp in Radium last summer.

“They were tenting, rather than in trailers, but Parks Canada had brought in a wash and shower tent, a mess tent, and a few other things, and it just got me thinking about what in fact may be possible,” Reinhardt told the Pioneer. 

Reinhardt has been coordinating with Columbia Valley Chamber of Commerce business recovery advisor Theresa Wood, who was already actively working on a broader scope housing project.

“Right now it’s very much preliminary pie-in-the-sky. Really just an idea and nothing more. But at this point, we’re willing to try anything,” said Reinhardt. 

The property that Reinhardt has looked at and talked to the landowner about is located within the village boundaries, but Reinhardt added that the camp could be hard to pull together, especially in time for the start of the valley’s summer tourism season, which begins on the Victoria Day long weekend in May.

It would be too expensive to lease the trailers, so it would be necessary to purchase used ones, explained Reinhardt, but the village can’t legally own items such as trailers, which are not permanently part of the village.

“So we would need a private partner, or several private partners, to make it work,” she said. 

It could be possible for local businesses to collectively own the trailers, in shares, “but that could get tricky, because some of our businesses are very small, and it would be hard for them to put in the big money we would need to make this work.”

The plan has gone from just an idea in Reinhardt’s head to being discussed in council meetings in just 10 days, but she concedes there is still a long way to go if it is to become reality.

“It’s very new. It is very bare bones, as plans go. It’s a Hail Mary,” she said. “But we need to try to do something.”