Need for low-cost housing on the rise

New housing study shows housing needs in Williams Lake.

City councillor Ivan Bonnell said he was a “little bit surprised” to see how high the need is for emergency shelter, youth-at-risk, and low-income housing revealed in a new housing study prepared for the city of Williams Lake by City Spaces Consulting.

“I was a little bit surprised in terms of the numbers and the need. I didn’t think they were quite as high as the study projected,” Bonnell said, adding the other thing the study showed was “how little” has been done on the housing issues during the last decade.

The city released the study on its website last week and Bonnell hopes it will receive broad circulation with groups that are involved with housing.

“Maybe we can start to build some partnerships and flesh some of the initiatives out and bring them into tangibles and see some new housing projects come to fruition,” he said.

Since being elected in Nov. 2011, Bonnell has participated on the Cariboo Lodge task force and said there is more work to do to finalize some questions about the current state of the facility.

“We have to determine if the best approach is to move with renovations or demolition and talk about building something brand new, and what the site would be used for in the future. Those are policies issues that will have to come to council.”

Anne Burrill, manager of social development for the city, described the study as a useful document for the whole community.

“I think there is information in there beyond housing with lots of really useful demographics the whole community can use. Certainly anyone who is involved in housing development, whether it’s affordable housing or market housing, will find it interesting,” Burrill said.

She wasn’t surprised by the data in the report because she has done work on the issue in the past.

“The main reason for doing the study was to make sure we had a solid piece of research from an objective, third party consultant that could look at what’s going on in our community and give us a real clear snapshot.”

A comprehensive housing study was prepared in 1996 for the Williams Lake Housing Committee at the time through the Social Planning Council, that was updated in 2009.

“It presented a long term look at housing needs in the community,” Burrill said. “This new study is a bit more comprehensive.”

The study is finalized and is now being shared with the community.

“It will facilitate the work of the Cariboo Lodge task force and the city will be looking at the recommendations in the study and using it to form our plans in the future supporting affordable housing.”

One of the things Burrill thinks is helpful about the study is often there are varying opinions about what the housing needs are in Williams Lake, and the study gives a good picture.

“We have gaps. Housing here isn’t as expensive as it is in larger urban centres, but we still have a number of issues. We have affordable issues. We have quality issues in our rental housing stock,” she said, adding most of the rental housing is “quite” old.

The full report is available on the city’s website http://www.williamslake.ca/files/1/doc_FinalReport_HousingNeeds_WL%202012.pdf.