Consultant Jerome Lengkeek presents the South Cariboo Housing Needs Assessment to District of 100 Mile House council April 21. (Melissa Smalley photo - 100 Mile Free Press)

Consultant Jerome Lengkeek presents the South Cariboo Housing Needs Assessment to District of 100 Mile House council April 21. (Melissa Smalley photo - 100 Mile Free Press)

‘Barely enough space’ for local seniors

South Cariboo Housing Needs Assessment points to dire housing shortage

Housing challenges in the South Cariboo, specifically for the region’s aging population, will get worse before they get better unless significant action is taken, according to a new report.

The South Cariboo Housing Needs Assessment was presented to 100 Mile District council last week following months of consultant research and highlighted five key challenges the region is facing.

One of the most pressing challenges, according to consultant Jerome Lengkeek who presented the report, is a lack of senior-appropriate housing to accommodate the aging population, which will need to downsize from single-family homes over the next decade or so.

That means a need for additional rental apartments, independent living communities or care homes, he said.

“There’s barely enough space is what we’re hearing at this point,” Lengkeek said. “With the rapidly aging population that is much bigger outside of 100 Mile than even within it, that’s going to create a significant problem.”

Lack of rental options is another issue highlighted in the report that is negatively impacting economic development within the region, Lengkeek said.

Many industries are having a difficult time recruiting employees to work in 100 Mile House and the surrounding area due to a lack of housing.

The other key challenges highlighted in the report include a rapid increase in prices, a lack of available skilled building contractors and what Lengkeek described as an “emerging homelessness” population.

“We were aware going into this that there was some homelessness in 100 Mile,” he explained. “But we started to hear a lot more about the functional homelessness as well, when people don’t have adequate housing and they’re doing things like couch surfing or living in a commercial property inappropriately, or living in unsanitary conditions like a shipping container.”

The report recommends local governments reassess zoning, land use and Official Community Plan requirements, incentivize rental units and higher density developments, promote and educate the public about modular home options and support local non-profits with appeals for public housing options.

Mayor Mitch Campsall pointed out how many of the district’s housing challenges are interconnected, noting that proposals for senior care homes have been derailed by a lack of available staff.

“We can’t get care aides or nurses here, because there’s no housing for them,” Campsall said. “That has been a big deterrent when it comes to putting more seniors housing up.”

Lengkeek agreed that the challenges were tied to one another in both problems and solutions.

“Any progress in increasing inventory of housing on any of these issues is going to have a downstream positive effect on the others as well,” he said.

Creation of the report – a legislative requirement put in place by the province in 2019 – will be a helpful tool for the district as council and staff appeal to other levels of government for housing help, Campsall said.

“This is a major issue to bring to (the province) and we’ve got their attention and they’re willing to work with us,” he said. “This is something that will make it a lot easier to work with them.”

The report is set to be presented to the Cariboo Regional District board for review at the end of April.


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