A Report looking at housing challenges for the rural communities of North Coast Regional District is channelling many themes heard in Prince Rupert and Port Edward over the last few years, that of a lack of affordable housing and little in the way of new construction underway to reduce the pressures.
The report which focuses on communities outside of the larger urban core in Prince Rupert looked at housing in Oona River and Dodge Cove on the Prince Rupert side of the District, as well as to review housing concerns for a number of communities on Haida Gwaii.
While noting of some of the concerns that will sound familiar to Prince Rupert residents, the report also highlights some of the areas of note specific to each community.
"Bulletin boards in town advertise people looking for housing. There are never ads for a vacant rental property anymore. It’s therefore a shame to see so many vacant homes in Dodge Cove when there are families and individuals nearby who can’t find housing" -- one of a number of comments provided to the Regional District study from Dodge Cove
For Dodge Cove residents the concerns ranged from a growing number of homes in the community becoming more of a seasonal home for out of region residents, to the greying nature of the area with few younger residents along with challenges in accessing services from the Prince Rupert area.
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For Dodge Cove, four areas in particular made for the key focus for the report, the rapid increase of housing prices, a shortage of rental housing, High construction costs and low availability of labour and a lack of appropriate Seniors Housing.
Those themes are expanded on below:
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Oona River respondents four key areas of note made for their contribution to the discussion on housing and issues that impact on the potential for growth in the area, those comments included:
"Lack of housing for rentals as many turned into Airbnb’s
It would be great to have a ferry service and garbage pickup of some kind.” “
Transportation much needed (Oona). We just put in a well but the dam is old & needed many repairs. We hope the well will be up and running by fall.” “
Would like to have affordable housing in Prince Rupert for longer stays for shopping or medical.”
A wider overview of some of the comments from Oona River can be reviewed below:
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Some of the comments from the Report also put a spotlight on how the current stock of housing in Prince Rupert is being perceived by those both inside and outside of the urban area.
With the observations making for some interesting themes for consideration towards the local situation.
We live close to downtown and own a commercial building. We had to put up a gate to stop people from sleeping and defecating in our entranceway.
We regularly see people sleeping in or around a number of other commercial entranceways (Fisherman’s Hall, the Spot, the party spot near the college) and we have seen tents in the greenspace.
There has been significant loss of affordable housing in recent years. Prices to purchase homes have also gone up significantly and are becoming unaffordable for an average person/family.
Impossible housing situation. Very high prices & nothing available.
My landlord was letting people sleep in a tent in the back yard.
I have my homeless brother and his two kids living with me.
More people are renting accommodations to transient workers or travellers. It provides more income but also protects the homeowners as current laws make it difficult for landlords to deal with problem tenants.
People coming in to work at port can afford higher rent, so they take the low-income homes for rent and drive up the prices.
In the last year rents have almost doubled.
There has been a loss of units due to apartment buildings and houses burned down and water damage causing condemned units. Due to this, there is NOT enough units for year-round residents, thus not enough units to house temp workers. However, many homeowners are furnishing homes for rent specifically for temporary workers as Executive Homes.
A number of single-family dwellings appear to be owned by corporations for use by seasonal / itinerant workers. Occupied largely in summer months only.
There are many workers for industry that come in to town and have accommodations provided at a high price from their employers, which has uses up the rentals available in our town and makes those left unaffordable.
There has also been a big push from the local college to bring in more international students as it is lucrative but they haven't constructed dormitories or anything for their students which adds to the housing crisis. Just another demand driver that drives prices up.
Homes being converted to Air BnBs or rented short term in an already tight housing market leave less housing for others. Or, long term residents need to pay prices that are closer to recreation/short term prices, making it unaffordable.
We need housing of all shapes and sizes, including traveler and student accommodations to take the pressure of the long term, traditional housing supply.
Tenants in this community are brutal. Some play the rules to their advantage and exploit to get free rent as it takes months to get people like this out. It makes it difficult for homeowners and for others to find a place to live. I will Airbnb my suite once I can get my tenant out. Too much late rent, parties, fighting etc.
As a paramedic, we are very understaffed but cannot recruit people here because they can’t find accommodations.
I am a landlord. The prices in our community (ie the rents I can charge and the prices of homes) are completely of sync with the underlying value of the properties.
There are many vacant lots, especially downtown, that could be developed into dense housing, with relatively small development costs for Prince Rupert. However, what I see is that they just aren't profitable ENOUGH for private developers to fill the need. It's not that you couldn't make money, it's just they can make MORE money, and/or EASIER money in other places. The government needs to step in and develop these properties, and something closer to a breakeven cost. This will help stop the skyrocketing home prices and rents. While I am benefiting from home equity and increased rents, I worry about what this continued trend will do to my neighbours who rent and/or are just starting out trying to build a life.
From a senior: I live too far from town and commuting to dt takes alot out of me. It cost money for cabs. I have problems with my knee caps and its hard for me to walk at times. I live on the 3rd floor and trying to request a transfer but they don't have any 1 bedroom or 2 bedroom apartments or townhouses where I live that is close to town. I need a unit that is on the main floor, but even if I could get a transfer it will cost me money to move.
What appears to be a growing issue of Air B and B's gobbling up housing stock makes for some of the narrative from the Haida Gwaii side of the Regional District, with out of town visitors using the properties for vacation rentals, taking homes out of the market for those looking for rental or purchase.
“Many rentals that would be rented by families and locals are now turned into Air B&B's. They are catering to short term tourist accommodations and misplacing local families and residents. Short term money gains. Many have stated they make more money as an Air B&B then a long-term rental.
Tourist can afford to spend $300+ per night while residents cannot afford $30/day or $900/month.”
Squatting on vacant properties and a need for couch surfing by those without homes is another vein of the review from the document., which also explores concerns specific to the Islands
As for recommendations, the report charts four areas for follow up:
The full document, including the findings from the surveys for each of the areas studied as part of the scope of the report can be found from the Agenda package for the Regional District Board Meeting this weekend, it's flagged as Item 5.2 from that agenda here.
The Regional District Board will review the study as part of their work this weekend.