Soaring housing costs, a spiking population with a growing number of seniors, older homes in need of repair—these are all challenges highlighted in a recent housing assessment conducted by Vancouver-based Thomson Consulting for the city.
Based on the possibility of major economic development within the region, the 64-page report suggests the population could grow between 30 to 50 per cent by 2021.
It also says the lack of low income housing will emerge as the most pressing concern combined with the threat that average earners might not be able to keep up with rising housing costs.
“It’s really helpful to have some of the future projections,” said city councillor Stacey Tyers of the housing needs assessment. “I think he [Matt Thomson] did a really good job at looking at possible growth projections instead of looking at the older data. Does it mean 50 per cent growth? No. But we need to brace for the worst case scenario.”
Drafted over February and March, the assessment drew on data from 2011 National Housing Survey and Census and included updated numbers.
Tyers thinks private home construction will ease the transition into a more densely populated Terrace for middle to high income earners, however that the assessment affirms the fact that the poor and disabled will feel the sting of high prices hardest.
“I think we are already seeing an upswing in the market housing that in developmental permits and projects planned and stuff, which is great, and does help alleviate some stuff but there is always going to be the need for the affordable housing,” said Tyers.
Tyers was struck by the prediction that if the population grows by 50 per cent, an estimated 1,100 people would be spending more than 30 per cent of their before-tax income on housing and related costs.
“It’s a little bit upsetting,” said Tyers. “That means living in unsuitable and unsafe housing. Unsuitable meaning you have too many people for the number of bedrooms and not up to standards.”
The assessment also found there’s a risk that average income earners may feel a crunch if house prices continue to rise.
“Nearly a quarter of the Greater Terrace Area’s residents were living with low incomes in 2011, placing a significant proportion of the population at risk of spending an unaffordable amount of income on housing or being forced out of the local housing market,” reads the report.
The $15,000 assessment commissioned by the city reveals an at-risk demographic that has grown since a previous such study was conducted in 2009.
Over the four years the list of those having difficulty finding affordable housing has grown to include single parent households, aboriginal families, the physically and mentally challenged, new arrivals and students, says the report.
“Everyone is really happy to get the information. As council we have been working hard to addressing this through bylaws and zoning and this is essentially one more piece of ammo in our arsenal to keep going and keep pushing the provincial and federal government to put in their share,” said Tyers.
The next step is educating developers about programs that can gain them sponsorship for affordable housing developments available through federal and provincial programs.
The assessment states that a per-unit fee charged on housing developments that require variances or rezoning to increase density is one of the best ways for the city to accumulate money for affordable housing projects.
This policy is already being introduced in a by-law now being developed to permit work camps at the city’s Skeena Industrial Development Park.