Lack of rental housing and seniors’ residences in the South Cariboo are two of the major issues being discussed as part of a housing needs public consultation this summer.
Launched by the Cariboo Regional District and the District of 100 Mile House last month, the study, mandated by the provincial government, aims to identify existing and projected gaps in the local housing supply.
Consultant Jerome Lengkeek, of Calibrate Group, has spent the past few weeks meeting with local community members to discuss housing concerns.
At a meeting Monday in Lac La Hache, Lengkeek said he’s had some “really good conversations” with locals in various communities and at farmers’ markets.
One of the big concerns is a lack of appropriate housing for the aging population in the South Cariboo, which he said is “one of the oldest parts of the province, demographically.”
“Where are they going to go? Are there places that are appropriate for people who really value that country living?” Lengkeek said. “Everyone that we spoke with said they want to stay in the area.”
The South Cariboo is unique, he said, in that the rural areas surrounding the town have a larger population than the town itself. So when residents need to be closer to the town centre because of transportation or mobility issues, there needs to be enough appropriate housing in town to accommodate them.
“I think (residents) are sensing intuitively what I can see in the numbers,” Lengkeek said.
The rental market is another frequently discussed issue, he pointed out, noting a “close linkage” between economic growth and the availability of rental housing.
“We’re hearing stories about people who get a job in 100 Mile and can’t find housing, or they start a business and can’t find housing,” Lengkeek said.
He’s heard of business owners living at their place of work and people sleeping in Centennial Park or in horse trailers.
“When staff go out to talk to people who are in these situations, it’s a bit surprising in that many of them are employed,” he said.
While he notes there is a fair amount of development taking place in the South Cariboo, the majority is “higher end, for owner-occupied stock,” rather than rental units.
Lengkeek is wrapping up his public consultation, which includes an online survey component, this week. He aims to have a report and recommendations to bring back to the CRD and District of 100 Mile in the fall.
He’s encouraging residents to take part in the online survey – even if they don’t have major housing concerns themselves – to provide a better picture of the overall state of housing in the region. The survey can be found on the District’s website at www.100milehouse.com