Housing struggle is real

Housing struggle is real

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Just over three years ago, the Town of Oliver commissioned City Spaces to do a study, which produced an affordable housing strategy. The report provides a framework for the town to make concrete decisions that will facilitate growth and expansion, and provide the housing that is desperately needed by many singles, single parent families, young families, empty nesters and so on. Unfortunately, many people in this demographic are forced to move out of town to Penticton.
“It (the report) says we’ve lost 100 affordable rental houses since 2004, due to the realty market, people from Vancouver coming in,” said Helen Overnes, president of the Oliver Women’s Institute.
“They are able to ask a high rent because there isn’t anything.” Council hasn’t gone ahead with what they can do, which is to write up a strategy of what you want. I took it to the council the other day (without much support),” Overnes explained.
She was told to prepare a strategy and return. “So much of it is legal I can’t do anything about,” she said. “They have people trained in the town office who know all the legal abilities of what the council can do. They can write up the strategy on how to get affordable housing, once they do that, then they can go to governments for money. We need to replace what we have lost.”
Mayor Ron Hovanes said he believes that it is important for the Town to be in a position to assist any developer who would like to contribute towards affordable housing as part of their development plans.
“To that end, our council is being introduced to a draft bylaw that will offer tax relief for developers that meet the criteria for bringing forward tourist accommodation, new business infrastructure and affordable housing opportunities.”
This is exactly what one local real estate agent had in mind as a potential solution. “I think that the Town’s options for encouraging such new projects are limited,” said Beth Garrish. “One option might be to favour zoning for these types of developments through the Official Community Plan. They may also be able to offer tax incentives to developers that propose a family oriented development; such as a reduction in property taxes, development cost charges. But, in the end, if a development is not economically viable, a developer will not step up to the plate.”
Another potential roadblock facing people who would like to make their home in Oliver is the age restrictions on many accommodations. Bear in mind that this does not just affect young singles who are feared to be irresponsible or poor tenants, but anyone who is under 55.
“Currently Oliver has approximately 11 townhouse complexes, four which are not age restricted; the rest are 55 plus, and approximately eight apartment complexes, two of which are not age restricted,” said local real estate agent Sara Amos. “As you can see, this segment of the real estate market caters more toward the senior/retired population. In comparison, Osoyoos has more than double the townhouses and apartments, among which only approximately one quarter are age restricted. However, do keep in mind that Osoyoos is a slightly different market,” Amos said,
While the majority of townhouses and apartments are age restricted, this does not mean it is a permanent situation, it is simply a question of will they change it? Amos said. “It takes only one person to approach the strata to suggest removing the age restriction or lowering the age restriction to, say 25.”
Amos noted this age bracket is often educated, starting families and looking to improve their current living situation. Finally, in order to remove it, either an annual or special general meeting must be held and it requires in most cases a three-quarter vote in favour of the change.
There are many capable and dedicated people who are searching to find viable solutions to this issue. It is not a process that happens overnight, but in order for Oliver to grow and thrive, we need to offer current and future residents adequate, affordable places they can call home. It is hoped by many that this is a goal high on the agenda of this town’s council.

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