With the goal of potentially incentivizing home improvements, Burns Lake council has been trying to understand the challenges that homeowners face, says Burns Lake Mayor Dolores Funk.
“We are looking for ways to respond to the unique issues that the housing crisis has created in our town,” Funk said.
Council has recently invited Nathan Way, manager of the Bulkley Valley Credit Union’s Lakes District branch, to share insights about the challenges that borrowers face when trying to upgrade their homes.
Way warned council that Canada’s increasing household debt is making it difficult for many people to fix or upgrade their homes.
Total debt per consumer surged to $71,979 in the second quarter of 2019, up from about $57,000 five years earlier, according to credit monitoring service Equifax.
According to a Manulife Bank of Canada debt survey released in November, two in five indebted Canadians don’t expect to escape debt in their lifetimes.
“It puts a lot of stress on the individuals’ finances. That’s the biggest challenge,” said Way. “We’re living in a time where it’s never been easier to spend our money, and there has never been so much demand for our money.”
Way said one of the biggest challenges his clients face is coming up with cash when “big surprises” occur such as having to repair something in a house they just bought.
“They don’t have the cash to inject to make the fixes that need to be done, so how are they going to afford this new bill,” said Way, adding that’s why it’s never been more important for homeowners to make wise financial decisions.
And it all starts with a budget, he said.
“Once you understand where the must-pays are, it’s pretty easy to figure out where the leaks are and you can start making a plan for plugging the leaks. Then when a surprise pops up, it’s not a scramble and you might be able to inject some cash.”
When asked if he had any advice for homeowners, Way said “plan ahead” and don’t rush to spend your disposable income.
“Grow into your finances and don’t get all the big flashy stuff when you have income to spend,” Way said. “If there’s work that need to be done [in your home], make plans to tackle it one piece at a time.
“It’s okay to save a little bit.”
—With files from The Canadian Press