The District of Elkford and the District of Sparwood with help from Housing Strategies Inc. have recently undergone a thorough study of the needs and demand assessment within the two communities. Goals of this study are to prevent the loss of existing affordable housing, make better use of existing affordable housing assets and resources, encouraging new development and build additional community capacity to promote new housing development targeting particularly seasonal contractors, seniors and those who rent low income housing.
Findings from the study have show that there is a severe shortage of rental properties in the Districts to accommodate not only those permanent renters, but also those who reside in the area on a four on four off schedule or temporary seasonal contract workers. This severe shortage has a layered effect leading to escalating rents, and a “gouging” effect. Also it is found that some landlords will not rent to mine workers due to the loss of showering and laundry facilities at the mine site, deterring landlords away as many see damage to carpets and furniture in rental units from the dirt and coal. Several high priority strategies in Elkford such as communication with the District of Sparwood and industry to monitor seasonal contractor numbers and issues, exploring through Pilot Projects the possibility of small scale camps or RV parks, or exploring the viability of modular or dormitory style housing for temporary seasonal workers were discussed.
The study has also indicated that many seniors are choosing to stay in Elkford after retirement, a trend that is new to the area, and housing for seniors is not fully evolved to accommodate them. There is an estimated 88 seniors housing units in Sparwood and none in Elkford, causing a lack in affordable and appropriate seniors housing. Elkford was encouraged to advocate with B.C. housing, Independent Living, and Interior Health to bring supported/assisted living to Elkford as well as helping seniors access funding through Federal and Provincial government agencies.
Those who are renting low income housing and do not work at the coal mines earn a below average income, making some housing which seems affordable, not really affordable at all. For assisting those renters the District of Elkford was encouraged to assist them in providing information regarding funding and program supports through government agencies as well as support affordable housing projects.
During the meeting ideas and plans for other target groups such as modest income renters and first time homebuyers, special needs populations and families at risk of becoming homeless were discussed as well as many other medium priority strategies. The District will now work on soliciting feedback on the draft report. Feedback and comments must be received by June 29th, 2012 and all comments will be compiled and recommended changes will be presented to Council on August 13, 2012 where it will undergo a final review, discussion and acceptance.
District Staff will then develop a detailed implementation plan in consultation and collaboration with the District of Sparwood and industry to present to council for final approval and inclusion in the financial plan and strategic priority plan.
The full report can be found at www.elkford.ca. Details on submitting comments can also be found on the website.