• Friday , 27 January 2023

Is Peachland capable of solving the housing crisis?

Canada has a housing crisis. House prices in some areas (including Peachland) have increased by more than half in the last two years. The price of rental accommodation has gone crazy and the Okanagan valley has some of the highest rates in the country. Young families cannot get on the property ladder and seniors with low income can’t find a place to live. Can Peachland solve this housing crisis? Unfortunately they do not have the revenue to do it. 

I was interested to read the letter in the View from Earl McLeod with details of how BC Housing will provide help to low-income seniors by building phase two of Peachland’s seniors housing. It was a good letter and information that mayor and council should be aware of. So does Peachland Council not care about low income seniors?; of course they do. If BC Housing paid market value for the land and paid the development cost charges and the building paid Peachland’s annual taxes for services, I am confident that mayor and council would support it enthusiastically. But when Peachland has to pay these costs, it is a legitimate process to study who benefits and at what price. Any expense helps to raise taxes and many Peachland taxpayers are on limited income.

The reality of life in Peachland is that it has become an expensive place to live. Cheap housing is never coming back to this area. High land prices downtown make that area an expensive place to develop. And the high cost of building on rocky hillsides makes that expensive as well. This community is no longer an option for most people on low incomes. That may be sad, but it is the world that we live in now. Local governments are not given the revenue sources to solve the housing crisis. The provincial government is demanding that more housing be approved but they are not giving the money for the infrastructure that is required. Local governments are struggling with the cost of providing services without huge tax increases. 

Both the provincial and federal governments have revenue sources that provide much more income than local governments have access to. Local governments may be in the front line of the country’s housing crisis but they are not responsible for solving it. And it is not just a housing crisis, as our health care is under extreme stress and other problems of growth are very clear. When we grow too fast, infrastructure and services cannot keep up. What makes the problem worse is that the federal government is increasing immigration from 300,000 to 500,000 each year. In 2022 Canada welcomed a record number of 431,000 new residents. Most are coming from Asia, and many have never seen snow; they do not want cold winters. So they are not going to live in Saskatoon or Winnipeg, but they are coming to British Columbia. If we cannot build enough housing when we welcome 300,000 a year, how can it make sense to welcome an additional 200,000? The reality of Canada is that we are NOT a large country when you consider where people want to live. We should be matching immigration to our ability to provide for the new residents. Instead we have high house prices and high rental rates, as we cannot provide housing fast enough.

Phase two of Peachland’s seniors housing may well go ahead as planned. But I support mayor and council checking the costs and getting the best deal for Peachland taxpayers. And Councillor Dave Collins was the key person in asking for guarantees that Peachland residents would get priority. We should be grateful for that.

Eric Hall

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