BEPPLE – City needs more made-in-Kamloops housing solutions
BACK IN APRIL 2022, BC Housing and City of Kamloops signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for 369 affordable rental homes for families and seniors, approximately 133 supportive homes and more than 100 shelter beds.
This is good news for Kamloops, especially seniors and families with limited incomes. With a 0.9 per cent vacancy rate, or only about 80 rental units available at any time, Kamloops rentals are very hard to come by and rents keep going up and up.
Kamloops is one of the fastest growing cities in Canada. While the demand for rentals by Trans Mountain pipeline workers may be diminishing, the inbound migration from the Lower Mainland, as well as the 4,000-plus TRU international students put continual strain on our at-capacity rental market. There will be 369 households with a more affordable place to live, but others will still struggle.
More year-round shelter beds is also good news.
The current winter shelters at the Yacht Club, Stuart Wood and the Alliance Church give us an idea of the impact an additional 100 year-round shelter beds would mean.
As one downtown resident told me, as soon as the winter shelters were opened, they no longer had six to 10 unhoused individuals living in their back alley. The downtown resident worried their back alley would again become home to the unhoused when the winter shelter beds closed.
Winter shelter beds have given us a reprieve. Year-round shelter gives people a place to go year-round.
But shelter is not housing. It is a place of transition. There needs to be a way for people to move from shelter to housing.
The 133 supportive homes is a move in the right direction but is woefully inadequate.
On any given night in Kamloops, the 240 permanent and winter shelter beds are at or above capacity.
Of the 131 new supportive housing units, 31 units are at the recently acquired Lamplighter Motel which is already housing individuals. That leaves only 100 more supportive units to serve the 240 or more unhoused individuals.
At the end of day, while the BC Housing/ City of Kamloops MOU in April 2022 was good news, even when it comes on stream, there will be far more demand than supply for all types of affordable housing in Kamloops.
Rather than relying only on MOUs with BC Housing, the City of Kamloops needs to support other affordable housing initiatives. Could City of Kamloops partner with faith groups, Canadian Home Builders, and others to create housing options?
For example, could a tax exemption be given for affordable housing developed by faith communities? Are there other housing models such as House of Multiple Occupants, popular in Britain, that could provide student housing, that CHBAIA thinks are viable to build in Kamloops?
In 2023, let’s think of more made in Kamloops housing solutions. There are so many who need housing from youth, to seniors, to students, to families. And many who need housing plus support as well. If we rely only on BC Housing as a partner, the numbers will never add up.
Nancy Bepple is a Kamloops City councillor with a strong interest in community building projects.
The pipeline project is not yet finished and it will continue to skew the local rental housing (and the labour market) for several more months or longer. Many new residential construction projects are underway and others have been announced. There are no “snap fingers” solutions in regards to housing needs, except perhaps for subsidized rent schemes for low income people.