Community opposition to widely supported affordable housing projects has “impacted” opportunities to house vulnerable demographics in Grand Forks, according to a recent housing assessment released by the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary (RDKB).
The Regional Housing Needs Report was written by the Vancouver firm, CitySpaces Consulting. Researchers based their findings partly on 2016 Canada census data and economic indicators for British Columbia’s Southern Interior. The report marks the RDKB’s first ever five-year housing assessment under a 2019 provision of the Local Government Act, according to the report’s introduction.
The report offers “a snap shot of what we need” in terms of housing solutions, Boundary Family Services’ (BFS) director Darren Pratt told the Grand Forks Social Services Advisory Group (SSAG) at its last meeting, Wednesday, Jan. 20.
In particular, the report notes “heightened anxiety, division, and polarity on delivering affordable housing projects in Grand Forks,” “high-level of support” for which “is somewhat hidden behind loud voices of opposition.” Housing gaps identified in the report include the need for “year-round emergency shelter” in the community and “transitional and supportive housing.” Residents experiencing homelessness and those suffering from mental health and addiction are “facing the greatest challenge [in] finding and affording housing,” the report says.
Grand Forks’ housing shortage was exacerbated by and “cannot be separate from” the 2018 freshet, which the report says displaced “nearly 2,800 residents in the centre Boundary area,” damaging or destroying around 400 homes on city properties.
The report meanwhile predicts a housing surplus of 267 city units by 2031. BFS director Pratt, who sat on the report’s steering committee, said a draft version of the report cited data suggesting a long-term population decline and shrinking economy prospects across the RDKB.
“Economic development, I think, is definitely the conversation that needs to be had as part of this housing issue,” he told the SSAG committee.
Pratt said the city’s housing crisis calls for a “comprehensive strategy,” explaining that “just putting in a year round shelter won’t ameliorate any of the long-term problems.”
The Housing Needs Report also notes affordable housing barriers in the way of low to moderate income families. The report also highlights that homelessness solutions were lacking in neighbouring Trail.
The report shows slightly better prospects for rural Grand Forks and Christina Lake, where “mobile homes are starting to show their age,” and where local cannabis operations are expected to create around 100 jobs over the long term.
This report is available on the RDKB’s website under the heading “Join the Conversation.”