Dale Rintoul

Dale Rintoul

Affordable housing hot topic

More than 100 people attended a forum on affordable and attainable housing Thursday in Vernon, far more than had registered

There is considerable interest in easing the housing crunch in Vernon.

More than 100 people attended a forum on affordable and attainable housing Thursday, far more than had registered.

“We know we’ve hit a button in the community,” said Annette Sharkey, with the Social Planning Council, which hosted the event with the City of Vernon.

Many of the people in the audience were private sector developers.

“We can’t rely on government grants to solve the problem. We all have to work together, including developers,” said Coun. Juliette Cunningham, with the city’s affordable housing committee.

“There is an appetite among them. They understand there are opportunities for them.”

While the real estate sector is currently soft, there are still challenges finding affordable units (people under the low-income cutoff of $35,000) and attainable housing (average income of $55,000).

The concern is that high housing costs will keep employees from moving here and existing residents may leave, negatively impacting the economy.

“How do we keep our workers in the community?” said Sharkey.

During the forum, participants learned about a city initiative that provides builders with information on policies that would assist them in constructing affordable and attainable residential units.

There is also an inventory of property owned by charitable groups and government that may be suitable for affordable housing.

Sharkey insists all of these details are crucial for private investors.

“There has to be a profit for the project to go ahead and it can be difficult with construction costs,” she said.

Sharkey and Cunningham will attend an affordable housing conference in Vancouver this week.

“We have to keep exploring the options and to be creative,” said Cunningham.