WHEN PEOPLE SAY they want housing for families, it’s important to think of what that means.
In the 2016 census by Stats Canada, there were just under 37,000 households in Kamloops. Of those, 10,000 were single person households. 14,000 were two person households.
Unless they mean they want housing for 1 and 2 person households as well as larger family units, that leaves a lot of people out of the loop. Housing must be for everyone, including for small households.
Currently the City of Kamloops is looking at allowing smaller houses on smaller lots. What they’re really saying is they are willing to consider providing fee-simple housing that meets the needs of one or two person households.
In reaction to a rezoning application to build a small house on a smaller than allowable lot in the downtown area, one online comment stated “densification is not the Canadian dream.” They opposed creating smaller lots for smaller houses. But how are massive houses on large lots meeting the needs of one or two person households?
Elsewhere in the city, a multi-family residential building is proposed for two city lots currently taken up by one house. One comment I heard this week regarding the proposed rezoning was “we want there to be a place for families in this neighborhood.” Given that 65 percent of households are one or two people, one wonders where these people should be living?
Single family homes on large lots, designed for large families, have been the norm for decades. People in single family residential houses understandably want to preserve their neighborhoods.
But when 65 percent of us live by ourselves or with one other person at most, some thought has to be given to changing the current zoning standards for the city, whether it is smaller houses on smaller lots, or increased options of multifamily residential units.
The impact on housing demand because of shrinking household size is stark.
The number of people per household has dropped steadily for all of the last century. In 1941, the Canadian average household had 4.1 people. By 1961, the average was just under 4.0. In 2011 it was 2.5 persons per household.
If, as was the case in 1941, the average household in Kamloops was 4.1 people, today the city would need just 22,000 households to house the same number of people. Instead, at 2.4 persons per household, the current number is 37,000 households.
As the size of households shrinks, there is an increased demand for housing. While not the only factor, one pressure on housing costs is the increasing demand because of more and more individuals living in smaller and smaller households.
Keeping Kamloops’ housing frozen in time, with the majority of the city’s land devoted to single family residential housing on large lots ignores the shrinking size of households, and the changes in how we live.
There has been a continual decline in household size over time. Yet the housing, especially in single-family residential neighborhoods, still reflects the “Leave it to Beaver” family of the 1950s.
What’s needed now is housing that meets the needs of everyone in Kamloops. Smaller lots for smaller houses. More multi-family residential. More options for one or two person households. We need housing for the 65 per cent of households that are 1 or 2 people, not just the traditional households of 3 or more.
Nancy Bepple is a former City councillor of Kamloops with a strong interest in community building projects.