At a housing crossroads
Castanet - Wayne Moore
Jan 11, 2022
It's no secret- housing unaffordability is a real issue in Kelowna. And the ability to attain housing, be it through purchase or rent, is becoming less and less attainable as the days, months and year roll by. As city council reviewed this year's community trends report, focusing on housing affordability, many pointed to last week's property assessments which jumped a whopping 35 per cent as another sign housing is out of the reach of many in Kelowna.
Coun. Gail Given suggested her adult children not only can't afford to buy a home in Kelowna, they can't afford to rent either.
In presenting the report to council Monday, planner Daniel Sturgeon says prices of all different types of housing in the city are rising faster than income levels which is creating the gap in affordability. He says the gap is only widening costs of purchasing, and renting has increased by as much as 30 per cent in some cases and the increased jump in inflation and the cost of living. "Affordability is a worsening condition, and has real impacts on the ability of people to move about the rental system, to move to Kelowna, and other serious impacts on health and well being of the community," said Sturgeon. "The worse it gets," he says, "the harder it is to address. "And, it impacts renters more significantly because renter households make less than owner households statistically."
The yearly trends report does not specifically outline solutions, but sets the stage for future actions by identifying local implications of broader national trends. "Housing affordability challenges are severe," planning manager Danielle Noble-Brandt said during a preamble, "affecting not only our most vulnerable, but also middle income earners and families. "Decades in the making, it will not disappear overnight. Without bold changes today, these challenges are certain to persist well into the future." Change, added Sturgeon, will likely be unconventional, such as a different use of zoning and encouraging different types of ownership. "We need to rethink roles and rethink the housing system," he said. "Building a supply that is at an affordable price, what we're calling the right supply at the right price, and the right location is key. "This is a big challenge."
Coun. Luke Stack praised the city's planning department and those who work on housing on a daily basis. Stack suggested the city has taken advantage of pretty much every opportunity made available to it through either senior levels of government, legislation or the private sector. Without those, he shudders to think where the city would be. "When I think of all stuff we've built in the last several years, hundreds of units, I just don't know if we could have built more," said Stack. "I think we're hitting all the right buttons, and we need to keep pushing all of them because they're all needed. "But, the reality is the market forces are so big that we can't out-policy the market." He says when people are willing to pay 30 per cent more for housing than they were a year ago, it's a market force he says the city can't respond to.