Terrace and the Regional District Kitimat-Stikine are getting $50,000 in a stimulus package to communities across the province meant to help municipalities collect and analyze data on local housing needs.
As part of the Housing Needs Reports Program, data from the 31 approved locations will inform housing needs reports, which will be further used to identify community housing needs, such as affordable housing, rental housing, seniors’ housing, as well as housing for people at risk of homelessness, families and people with special needs. The reports will also help local governments support local economic growth by assessing future employment-housing needs.
“Housing needs reports are a way to gather important information as we partner with local governments to create the right housing for people in communities of all sizes around the province,” said Selina Robinson, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. “The wave of enthusiasm and interest in applying for this grant tells us that local governments are eager to collect this information to help them build vibrant, thriving communities.”
In 2018, the Province announced a $5 million investment over three years (2019-21) to help local governments collect and analyze data about their communities. The data is then combined with provincial data about household income and demographics to complete a housing needs report. The developed reports are then used to help inform councils about development proposals and pinpoint the unique housing needs of their individual communities.
Coun. Sean Bujtas in Terrace said the money will go a long way toward helping the community learn more about the unique challenges in housing it is facing as industry booms in the area.
“The City of Terrace greatly appreciates the financial support to complete a housing-needs assessment,” he said. “With the economic activity and the impacts of LNG and other resource projects in the northwest, housing pressure on residents in our community is significant. Funding for this assessment will allow us to move forward and address those challenges.”
In Kitimat, the District recently heard the results of one of the aforementioned housing needs assessments, which showed the region was facing a number of housing paradoxes.
For one, despite having an extremely high (just under 25 per cent) vacancy rate, the District’s rental prices are on the rise.
It’s something that community planner Julia Bahen attributed to the possibility of landlords withholding units in anticipation of a warmer (and perhaps wealthier) market brought on by industry, set to peak in the region over the next half-decade, when she presented the Kitimat Housing Action Plan and Needs Assessment to council earlier in the year.
“From the consultation that we’ve been able to do it seems that it may be indicative of some speculation of units being withheld with the idea that they may be able to get higher rents in the future,” she said.
In addition to the above, 12 per cent of housing units within the District are considered in need of major repairs, a figure that is double the provincial average. Coupled with a high rate of vacancy, it’s something Bahen said could create a perfect storm in terms of a housing crisis.
“What that means is that landlords aren’t generating return on investments so the issue is that housing may fall into a state of disrepair,” she said. “In addition to that, you’re seeing the [housing availability] go up and then drop so significantly and here you have the relationship that Kitimat has with industry.”
Under new requirements put in place by the Province, local governments must produce their first housing needs report by April 2022 and every five years after that. In the first two intakes of the Housing Needs Reports Program, over $3 million in grants have been approved, supporting 101 municipalities and 18 regional districts with funding to help develop their Housing Needs Reports.
This is being done with the overall goal of building 114,000 new affordable homes in the Province by 2028.
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