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Affordable Housing is a Pressing Community Need

A collaborative approach is vital to respond to local housing needs
The Vernon Native Housing Society is building a five-storey affordable rental building, beside Thunderbird Manor, which currently provides 38 rental homes for Indigenous peoples.

According to the Community Foundation North Okanagan’s 2020 Vital Signs report, almost half of renters in the North Okanagan pay more than 30% of their earnings on rent. This leaves them vulnerable of losing their housing if they were to lose their job. These numbers are concerning as affordable housing becomes scarce in the North Okanagan.

Some of the major issues contributing to the housing crisis in our region can be attributed to the rental vacancy rate remaining at one percent for more than 4 years, where a healthy vacancy rate is around three percent. Also, minimum wage has not increased at the same rate as people’s rents have increased, and for those on income assistance – the rental portion has not increased for more than 12 years.

The Regional District of North Okanagan (RDNO) has outlined the myriad reasons that the North Okanagan has been facing a housing crisis in their Housing Needs Assessment and reports that there is a severe backlog of affordable housing in Vernon and the surrounding region.

Kelly Fehr of Turning Points Collaborative Society comments, “Due to the absence of sufficient affordable housing being created by the private market, not-for-profits must work closely with governments and philanthropists to provide affordable housing, rental subsidies and supportive housing.”

In 2020, Turning Points Collaborative Society (TPCS) started a hotel housing program as a temporary measure to house people in emergency situations. They initially had 15 rooms but by the end of 2021, they were operating 81 rooms out of 4 hotels, to shelter 139 residents, including 12 families. TPCS has also purchased 10 rental buildings that were a part of the existing affordable housing stock. If these buildings had been purchased by investors our region would have risked losing 42 affordable units in Vernon and 29 in Enderby.

The Vernon Native Housing Society continues to contribute to the supply of affordable housing in our community as construction starts on a new 5-storey housing development. This is a partnership with the Province of BC, RDNO and the City of Vernon, and will provide 38 rental homes for Indigenous peoples with nine of the units being accessible for people with disabilities.

As we reflect on the findings in the Vital Signs report, the Community Foundation plans to collaborate with essential service organizations responding to the immediate needs of our vulnerable citizens. Some of these organizations include:

Read more about the housing situation in our region and view the full Vital Signs report at: