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Powell River city council plans housing strategy

Staff to report on next steps to implement needs assessment report
NEXT STEPS: Regional social planner Kai Okazaki has stated that the qathet regional housing needs report confirms there is a need for more rental and affordable housing in the qathet region. City of Powell River has reviewed the study and is recommending that staff report on how to implement its recommendations. Peak archive photo

City of Powell River plans to review next steps in implementing recommendations contained in the 2021 qathet regional housing needs assessment report.

At the May 6 city council meeting, councillors voted to direct staff to report at a future committee of the whole meeting on next steps to implement the report’s recommendations. Council also voted to publish the report on the city’s website for public access, and to explore and report back on the feasibility of city-owned property on Barnet Street for affordable housing.

Councillor Rob Southcott said it was a huge report, surveying the region and providing all three local governments – the city, qathet Regional District and Tla’amin Nation – with a foundation for much work going forward.

Councillor Maggie Hathaway said the report is a requirement of the provincial government for every local government to conduct a housing needs assessment, which was “a really good idea.”

“We received a grant to fund this and up to 2026 it tells us what we need for housing,” said Hathaway. “We have all of the information we need now to move forward. It’s a really excellent report.”

She added that the property on Barnet Street identified in the recommendation is the parcel of city property adjacent to the Powell River RCMP detachment that was once designated as the site for the new fire hall.

Councillor Cindy Elliott said one of the highlighted features of the report is the need for purpose-built rental accommodations and the recommendation that new data is looked at once the census is reported on in a year or two.

“It recommends us updating the report after the census because the data used is maybe not reflective of the modern data we need,” said Elliott.

Councillor George Doubt said the census will provide information on what kind of growth is happening throughout the region.

“My sense is the growth is really different in the last year or 18 months than it was previously,” said Doubt. “We were previously in a situation of very low growth. I think that has changed and it is going to continue to be different for the future.

“This is a valuable study to let us know about the shortages of different types of housing in the community and it’s the entire regional district community that got studied. It’s up to us to act on it and do things to make more affordable housing. Some of the recommendations in the report, like creating rental-only zoning, and making land available at reasonable prices, or leased land from the city for affordable housing, are things we need to think about.”

Doubt said the journey isn’t over but this is a good step to start with.

Councillor CaroleAnn Leishman said it was a great, much-needed report.

Housing issue crosses boundaries

The executive summary of the housing needs assessment stated that the three governments believe housing is an issue in their communities and housing issues cross jurisdictional boundaries.

The report also stated the purpose of the assessment is to identify the housing types and number of units needed for the community and form a strategy to achieve those requirements.

According to a media release from the three participating local governments, in homeownership, the average home price increased from $275,532 in 2016 to $465,226 in 2020. For rentals, a three per cent vacancy rate indicates a healthy market, representing a balance between reasonable property choice for renters and reasonable rates of return for property owners, the release stated. In the qathet region, the vacancy rate was 0.5 per cent in 2019 and 1.7 per cent in 2020, according to the release.

“There are challenges with all types of housing, where the increase in housing prices and market rental rates are greatly outpacing the local incomes, as well as limited availability,” stated regional social planner Kai Okazaki. “The housing needs report confirms there is a need for more rental and affordable housing in the qathet region.”