The Regional District of Mt Waddington has issued a housing needs survey to north islanders. (Submitted)

The Regional District of Mt Waddington has issued a housing needs survey to north islanders. (Submitted)

North Island mayors speak out on Regional District of Mount Waddington’s housing needs survey

The housing needs report will be completed by Nov. 15, a six-month delay from the original deadline.

Northern Vancouver Island has been struggling with a housing crisis, but now there appears to be a beacon of light on the horizon.

The Regional District of Mount Waddington (RDMW) has issued a housing-needs survey to find out what gaps need to be filled in each municipality, with the hope that the data collected will find a solution to the longstanding issue.

The housing-needs survey will end up painting a realistic picture of who’s living in the North Island areas, what housing they have, and what housing they will need in the future, thus creating a broader regional housing strategy that is required by the provincial government.

Low rental vacancy rates and little-to-no seniors housing are two of the key problems that the region is trying to address.

When dealing with a housing crisis, solutions might seem obvious—build more houses, attract developers, incentivize rentals, for example. But good data reveals a more nuanced need, says Angela Smith, Mt. Waddington Heath Network’s coordinator.

”Let’s take Port McNeill for example. The population there has been decreasing, so how can rental vacancies be getting worse? Well, we have a situation where as a population ages, the kids move on but the parents stay home. So you end up with houses that used to have four to six occupants, now with only mom and dad in them because the kids have moved on,” Smith said.

Because there isn’t appropriate seniors housing to transition into, population decrease does not lead to available housing.

“There’s a bubble moving through the population that’s showing itself in the housing situation. That’s what the housing survey will help to identify. Some of these solutions aren’t immediately obvious,” Smith stated.

READ MORE: North Island Seniors Housing Foundation is progressing towards its goals

The housing strategy is a provincial requirement for every community, but the North Island municipalities determined it was better to work together to create a regional strategy. A coordinated plan will also put each community in a better position to successfully apply for funding than if they had worked on five separate strategies.

“It’s not something any one community can tackle alone; we needed to assess this as a region,” stated Port McNeill Mayor Gaby Wickstrom, adding that seniors housing in particular is a concern for Port McNeill.

Smith agreed with Wickstrom’s point of view, stating that rural areas tend to produce more quantitative information.

“People are good at telling their stories,” Smith said. “They’re heard, but stories aren’t as effective as quantitative data to apply for funding, or attract investment.”

Wickstrom added that in her opinion, “we need assisted living, and independent living. Affordable, appropriate housing for seniors. I’ve also heard people say they’re looking for houses to transition out of. They’re retiring and are looking for patio homes, townhouse-style homes.”

The communities know what housing is needed for the most part, but they also need hard data to back up the development strategies.

“For us, we wanted to developed seniors housing, but we weren’t successful in getting funding, and there aren’t a lot of developers looking at coming here to develop seniors housing complexes,” said Wickstrom.

There is funding available that the region hasn’t been taking advantage of, Smith noted, pointing out potential funding from BC Housing, the BC Non-Profit Housing Association and the provincial government. Data collected for the housing needs report will help RDMW get better help to address the housing gaps.

READ MORE: B.C. rental crisis goes far beyond impact of short-term rentals, say experts

Port Hardy Mayor Dennis Dugas said he hopes the survey will help identify the housing needs in his community.

“For a long time it seemed like the rental providers, their places weren’t full and they were concerned about it. But then something turned around and now it’s full,” Dugas said.

Anecdotally, people say it’s quite hard to find rental places in Port Hardy. Vacant suites are snapped up quickly, and there aren’t that many to begin with. Population has risen, yes, and three years ago a massive fire at the Creekside apartment displaced dozens of people who struggled to find new homes.

Dugas also shares the seniors housing concerns.

“The North Island Seniors Housing Foundation has been working for a number of years now to build a facility so that seniors don’t have to leave their community,” Dugas said. “So that’s where the survey will really help us, to find out how many people are really in that position who will be looking for a place to transition into. We don’t want them leaving Port Hardy, so what can we do to fill that gap?”

Alert Bay Mayor Dennis Buchanan says the COVID-19 pandemic has turned their rental shortage into a crisis.

“Many of our people are single, and with the shortage of rental accommodation, they were basically couch-surfing and had nowhere to self isolate,” Buchanan stated. “Many places that used to be rental are now Air B&B, because owners can make more renting nightly than they can on long term tenants.”

Even before the pandemic hit, Buchanan’s office has been working on new bylaws to encourage new long-term rental builds via laneway or carriage houses. It’s hard to reduce the number of short-term rentals once they begin, but with zoning they can control new builds.

The regional housing strategy report will be completed by Nov. 15, a six-month delay from the original deadline. The timeline was extended because community consultations had to be re-imagined in light of physical distancing requirements.

The housing questionnaire has been distributed as pamphlets to all five RDMW communities and can also be completed on the RDMW website: http://www.rdmw.bc.ca/.

Port Alice Mayor Kevin Cameron has not yet responded regarding Port Alice’s housing needs. The story will be updated once he has commented on the issue.



zoe.ducklow@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Housingmunicipal politics

Just Posted

North Island Gazette
EDITORIAL: What to do about homelessness in Port Hardy

‘people suffering from homelessness deserve to be treated with dignity and compassion’

North Island Eagles logo
North Island Eagles give update on the upcoming 2021-2022 season

The North Island Eagles minor rep hockey teams are getting ready for… Continue reading

Ma Murrays 2021 virtual ceremony screenshot
North Island Gazette wins big at 2021 Ma Murray Newspaper Awards

Zoe Ducklow and Bill McQuarrie both won gold at the online ceremony

Port Hardy council has agreed to cancel Canada Day celebrations in wake of the discovery of the remains of 215 children being found on the grounds of a former residential school. (North Island Gazette file photo)
Council votes to cancel Canada Day celebrations in wake of mass grave sites being found

Coun. Treena Smith made the motion for the chamber to not host Canada Day celebrations this year

Port Hardy Fire Rescue responded to an early morning fire around 3:50 a.m. on Sunday, June 13. Two porta-potties were on fire at the Visitor’s Centre on Hastings Street. Anyone with information is asked to contact the RCMP at 250-949-6335. (Port Hardy Fire Rescue photo)
Firefighters respond to early morning fire near visitor centre in Port Hardy

Two porta-potties were on fire at the Visitor’s Centre on Hastings Street

Maxwell Johnson is seen in Bella Bella, B.C., in an undated photo. The Indigenous man from British Columbia has filed complaints with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal and the Canadian Human Rights Commission after he and his granddaughter were handcuffed when they tried to open a bank account. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Heiltsuk Nation, Damien Gillis, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
VIDEO: Chiefs join human rights case of Indigenous man handcuffed by police in B.C. bank

Maxwell Johnson said he wants change, not just words, from Vancouver police

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says re-opening B.C.’s border to the U.S. ‘is not in our best interest’ right now. (B.C. Government photo)
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry (B.C. Government photo)
B.C. records 113 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, four deaths

Vaccination of young people rising quickly, near 75 per cent

Marine biologist Rick Harbo pulls a lid from the Ladysmith harbour, which he uses to monitor the presence of native and non-native species in the Ladysmith harbour. (Cole Schisler photo)
Unidentified sponge may be the latest marine species invading Island harbour

Marine biologist finding dozens of alien species in warm-water Ladysmith Harbour, none threatening

Island Health is bringing a vaccination clinic to Lake Cowichan starting June 23. (Submitted)
Island Health opening COVID-19 vaccine clinic to boost lagging Cowichan Lake numbers

Cowichan Valley West the only Island area under 60 per cent in adult first dose totals

For more than a year, Rene Doyharcabal and a small group of neighbours in Langley’s Brookswood neighbourhood have been going out every evening to show support for first responders by honking horns and banging pots and drums. Now, a neighbour has filed a noise complaint. (Langley Advance Times file)
Noise complaint filed against nightly show of support for health care workers in B.C. city

Langley Township contacted group to advise of complaint, but no immediate action is expected

A nurse prepares a shot of the COVID-19 vaccine at the Yukon Convention Centre in Whitehorse on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mike Thomas
Vancouver couple pleads guilty to breaking Yukon COVID rules, travelling for vaccine

Chief Judge Michael Cozens agreed with a joint sentencing submission,

An inmate in solitary confinement given lunch on Tuesday, May 10, 2016. THE CANADIAN/Lars Hagberg
22-hour cap on solitary confinement for youth in custody still too long: B.C. lawyer

Jennifer Metcalfe was horrified to hear a youth had spent a total of 78 straight days in isolation

Flowers and candles were laid on the driveway of the Weber home, where Kerri Weber was found dead in November 2020. (Black Press Media file photo)
Greater Victoria man to stand trial for death of his wife last November

Ken Weber is charged with second-degree murder of his wife, Kerri Weber

The discovery of a missing woman’s body in Nanaimo earlier this month is now being treated as homicide, say Nanaimo RCMP. (File photo)
Discovery of woman’s body in downtown Nanaimo now being investigated as a homicide

Amy Watts was found dead near Albert Street and Victoria Crescent on June 3

Most Read