There is a lot of work being done to identify housing needs in the North Cariboo, and as part of a strategy to meet those needs right now, the City of Quesnel has just begun the first steps of hiring a Housing Planner.
Coun. Scott Elliott, chair of the Housing Committee, provided an update to Quesnel City Council on June 25.
The committee is currently undertaking a North Cariboo Housing Needs Assessment, Gap Analysis and Action Plan to see if the North Cariboo has the housing supply people are looking for, and then hoping to figure out what needs to happen to make the housing supply fit the demand.
An online survey is currently collecting data, and residents are encouraged to participate if they haven’t yet done so.
“We’re about 50 per cent through this work so far, and mainly, it’s been centred around the surveys and getting as many responses as we can to some of the questions around housing and the gaps in — not just Quesnel — but the whole North Cariboo,” said Elliott. “A lot of work is being done, and it’s extremely important, not only for the obvious — in how the housing relates to us — but also because later on, we’re thinking the South Cariboo and the Central Cariboo is going to use our model as well.”
Elliott says close to 400 people have responded to the survey so far.
“We’ve had great uptake from a lot of different organizations, whether it be social housing, First Nations, developers, realtors, Northern Health,” he said. “It’s exciting.”
Elliott says there is still a lot of work to be done and information to gather.
“We’re looking at the current stock of housing and housing potential in the area, and as we grow into this a bit more, we’ve come to see a lot of the stats and the housing maybe on the lower spectrum that is definitely needed, but as we work forward, there’s going to be more information coming about more market housing and initiatives there and possibilities — development opportunities — so we’re reaching out a bit more for that,” he said. “We’re trying to figure out what kind of resources the CRD has as compared to the City. The City’s done a lot of work to develop a number of different housing initiatives in [Quesnel], and we have tools, from Development Cost Charges that we can defer, or 226 Tax Exemption, so we’re trying to get some clarity around what the CRD can actually do in areas outside of us.”
Elliott says they are looking at the end of September or possibly the beginning of October for the final report to be finished.
“The intention is to start moving on this and start to attract the market investment,” said Mayor Bob Simpson.
Director Tanya Turner told council that the City has just put out a posting for a Housing Planner.
This position will be funded as part of the Northern Development Initiative Trust, noted Simpson.
Simpson told council that since their May committee meeting, they’ve also had a First Nations-specific meeting.
“There are a number of off-reserve First Nations housing programs, and if you take a look at where the bulk of our social needs are, they’re in that First Nations community,” he said. “We have lots of the bands who have individuals who are living in our urban centres … the other is things like short-term medical stays; I know Nazko has a block of hotel rooms they’ve got on-call for people coming in on short-term medical stay. About 80 to 85 per cent of the individuals utilizing the shelter from our own population are of Aboriginal descent. And then Elders needing to move into town for services, and there isn’t appropriate housing.
“So one of the things we will be asking the planner to do is to work with that community because there are Aboriginal-specific programs we would like to be able to tap into.”
Simpson has also found it interesting that there seems to be a move towards co-operative housing, and he’d like council to ask the planner to pursue that avenue as well.
“That movement is growing, and we have two that we are aware of that are starting to have this dialogue of what might it look like here,” he said. “Once we get the planner on board, the planner can grab that piece of the strategy and start to explore that more, maybe have some workshops, start to facilitate that dialogue turning into action.
“I think it’s exciting, and I appreciate the leadership Coun. Elliott is bringing to this. I think we’re on the front-end of a pretty significant initiative for our community.”
Turner says they hear often from seniors in the community that Assisted Living is needed, and that is something the City will continue talking to BC Housing about as well.
“The strategy won’t get everything, but it will point to directions,” said Simpson. “One of the conversations we’ve had, for example, is we’re hoping the consultant will get in touch with Northern Health. Northern Health has pretty robust data on what we need in the way of housing for seniors and others.”
For example, Dunrovin Park Lodge wasn’t meant to be a long-term place of care for people with MS, but it has ended up serving that purpose because there is nowhere else for them to go. They will be asking questions around the building blocks they need in order to be able to offer supportive housing for them and other demographics, like adults with developmental disabilities, explained Simpson.
“We’ve started a conversation about that,” he said. “Having a housing planner is really going to help us be able to dig in on those distinct pieces and then look at the resources that are available. It will be terrific in our community.”
Quesnel and CRD residents wanting to contribute can still participate in the online housing survey by visiting surveymonkey.com/r/RHDMRV9.