British Columbia leads the nation as the province with the highest rate of unaffordable housing, so it’s no surprise that housing is a hot topic during the municipal election campaign in Smithers.
Affordable housing is not just a problem in itself, it has profound implications for most other major issues, economic growth, employment, health care, cost of living, public safety, homelessness and municipal taxation.
Sandra Hinchliffe, former chair of the Northern Real Estate Board, said the real estate market has slowed significantly in Smithers and across Canada.
“I’ve seen this type of downturn before, it’s part of the cycle, but in my 20 years as a real estate agent, I hadn’t seen such a rapid recovery,” she said.
“The housing shortage in Canada has been growing for some time. Many experts in the field have long predicted an extreme shortage. And the rapid recovery was the result. The cause of the hot market and scarcity is multi-faceted and there are many expert opinions, but many say that all levels of government have not sufficiently planned for the future.
She understands why housing has become such an important election issue.
“It is important to remember that while municipalities have an important role to play in facilitating housing availability, it is also a larger issue that provincial and federal governments need to address. More housing supply is the ultimate answer and all levels of government must work together to ensure supply increases.
She would like the new town council to work to facilitate affordability for all levels of housing in Smithers.
Outgoing Mayor Gladys Atrill said the city needs to use smart incentives and regulations, work with the right partners, and advocate with other levels of government. “Know that we cannot do this alone.”
She added that the other possible solution is to build.
“A future consideration is to review the current height restriction on buildings. Moving up is a smart way to increase housing stock by using existing infrastructure like roads, water and sewer lines. We can consider putting multiple uses in one building, which could pave the way for more housing and necessary amenities, such as child care or the library.
The only other person running for mayor is Murray Hawse and he thinks the answer to the problem is to get rid of some barriers that he says are discouraging and delaying the process of planning, designing and building affordable housing and housing. generally in this community.
“The barriers imposed by city building processes can be daunting and frustrating for everyone involved,” he said.
“Locally, this can begin to be resolved by forming a working group that includes local stakeholders, businesses and interested parties to promote positive change and streamline the process. The outcome of this review will help shorten the start-to-finish time of projects in our community and, in turn, reduce the availability gap of all types of housing available to residents of our city.
Nick Brière is running for a council position and also thinks less red tape will help ease the shortage. He said increasing the zoning area for horse-drawn carriages, allowing housing in the lanes near the hospital and encouraging a greater variety of sizes and types of housing to be built in Smithers to accommodate different households and incomes would help.
Council candidate Laura Leonard agreed.
“Regulatory burdens significantly increase the cost of housing,” she said. “If elected, I would analyze our fee structure with respect to permits to see if we can find ways to reduce developer costs, cut red tape and encourage investment in our community. .”
Outgoing Councilor John Buikema knows housing is a complicated issue.
“Many think that a city government has a say in the cost of housing in its jurisdiction, but that’s not the case,” he said. “The main reason for the high cost of housing in our city is that prices are determined by the market. Smithers is a great place to live and housing is more expensive in high demand markets.
Buikema added that the current city council has tried to get involved in housing in every way possible.
“We have supported a variety of housing in the Ambleside housing estate. We have been open to a possible local service agreement on Alfred Avenue that could lead to the construction of a number of new homes. We encouraged small lot filling, lean houses, carriage sheds.
“We’ve made bylaw changes to make it easier to add secondary suites, and there have been property tax incentives for rental units added downtown. Finally, we provided part of the LB Warner site for the Dze L K’ant housing project.
The only other outgoing adviser in the running is Frank Wray. He said the new city council will have new zoning and incentive tools to explore and, of course, should support any new housing initiative that makes sense for the community.
“Having been a councilor for the past 14 years, I can say that this is not a problem that will go away. There is no magic bullet that will immediately provide affordable housing for everyone. The improvements have been incremental and will continue to come. The Council must be prepared to work continuously on this issue for the foreseeable future. »
Sam Raven said that while there has been progress over the past few years with carriage houses and the approval of higher density construction, Smithers must continue on this path by working with all levels of government to encourage the construction of new units and affordable multi-family dwellings.
“I fully support exploring how we can use tiny homes in our neighborhoods. Always ensure that when discussing suites and rentals, we have conditions in place to ensure that we create affordable medium to long term rentals so that our solutions actually contribute to solving supply issues accommodations.
Early campaigner Calvin Elliot agreed the city needed to do more and he believes more land needs to be developed to create more housing space.
“I think we’re used to having single family homes and in the past families were bigger. Most households today have four people or less. If we could change our thinking and use land space more efficiently and create more multi-unit buildings, we could create more housing if land is limited,” he said.
Adam Koch agrees that high density is the way to go.
“We need high density housing and we needed it yesterday,” he said. “We need housing for everyone, low-income people, assisted living facilities, seniors, small families and professionals who are just trying to find a place to be able to work here. I am open to working towards any viable and possible solution, such as providing incentives for developers to prioritize high-density housing over single-family homes.
Jason McCrindle says the city is on the right track to help housing stock.
“I believe the Town of Smithers has taken many appropriate steps over the past few years to address the housing shortage, including the 2020 Housing Needs Report, the Rental Housing Incentive Program and the Dollars to the Door. These reports and programs have helped in recent years to launch more projects.
Meanwhile, Genevieve Paterson thinks a team approach to the situation will help.
“I will increase access to housing in Smithers by working with Indigenous, federal and provincial governments, non-profits and the private sector to ensure our housing incentive policy and community plan are on track. way to achieve our infill and secondary apartment development goals. , transportation homes and supportive housing,” she said.
BC Election 2022BCSmithers Municipal Election