More affordable housing in progress for the valley

After months of consultation, the Family Dynamix Association is moving forward with plans for more affordable housing in the Valley.

After months of consultation and collaboration with local governments, community organizations and businesses, Family Dynamix Association is moving forward drafting an Affordable Housing Development Plan for the Columbia Valley.

Family Dynamix received funding from the Columbia Basin Trust in 2016 to co-ordinate the first phase of this plan, aiming to create more affordable housing throughout the valley.

Based on the Canada Mortgage and Housing Development (CMHC), housing is considered affordable when a household pays no more than 30 per cent (for renters) and 32 per cent (for owners) of their gross monthly wages to maintain a house that is safe, in good repair and suitable.

In 2013, Family Dynamix updated the District of Invermere’s Housing Need and Demand Assessment from 2007, to incorporate new and more inclusive statistical data that covered the areas from Canal Flats to Spillimacheen. What they discovered, based on the Canada Census of Population data from 2006, was that there were 303 households paying more than 30 to 32 per cent in Invermere, 45 in Radium, 10 in Canal Flats, 180 in Area F and 80 in Area G, putting them at risk of homelessness.

Stemming from this research, the Columbia Valley landed its first affordable housing project in 2014 an 18-unit complex located in Invermere. According to Michele Neider, director of program management and affordable housing project director at Family Dynamix, there is still a significant need for affordable housing throughout the Columbia Valley.

“There are many houses here but due to the touristic nature of our valley and because we have a lot of large homes here, they are expensive,” she said. “Most of these houses are not rented, or if they are, they are available only several months out of the year. During the summer months owners want to benefit by occupying them or rent them weekly for higher rates.”

She said that although the current 18-unit complex meets some of the valley’s needs for affordable housing, the fact that there’s a waiting list and various living restrictions points to the need for further development. One of these restrictions is the National Occupancy Standards for BC Housing, which states that no children over the age of five are able to share the same bedroom. Given that all of the 18 units are of the two-bedroom variety, this limits the ability of families who are able to rent these locations.

“Hence the need for more affordable housing because according to BC Housing Standards “Families with two children a boy and girl, where one is over six years must have separate bedrooms for these children. They cannot share the same bedroom, nor can they share a bedroom with their parents. Even single parents will need a three-bedroom unit,” stated Neider. “These two-bedroom units, although they satisfy some of the population, they don’t meet the needs of most families.”

Neider said that there have already been several motivated, community-oriented individuals who have come forward pitching their ideas for new affordable housing developments. Given the congruency of the current affordable housing complex in Invermere, she said it would be a positive step to input some diversity to any future planning.

We are looking at a various housing models and basically there exists need across several demographics. The study also shows that there will be a need for senior housing by the time 2020 arrives. There are going to be over 200 seniors that will need decent affordable housing. At this time, we are looking at housing for seniors, young families, single parents, and singles.”

For now, Neider will be working on creating and prioritizing a sustainable action plan that will identify potential plans for affordable housing developments throughout the valley.

“The final report for this funding is due mid-January of 2017 and there will be recommendations,” she said, noting that the hope is to then apply for part of the provincial government’s $500 million made available to affordable housing projects throughout the province. “It’s going to be a long process and by next June we’re hoping that there will be at least one project that we can go after and develop. Following that, we will continue to develop other projects as the opportunities arise.”