When it comes to the problem of homelessness, it’s easy to think of it as only a “real” problem in big cities, like Vancouver.
Penticton may not have as many homeless as Vancouver, but it isn’t exempt, not by any means. The problem, as Mayor
Andrew Jakubeit pointed out, is getting a handle on how big a problem it might be.
After all, it’s not like any agency keeps a single registry of every person living on Penticton’s streets, and even if one did, it still wouldn’t be accurate.
There is also the problem of people couch surfing — with a roof over their head at night, but still without a place to call their own.
It’s easy to turn your back on the problem of homelessness, saying it’s their own fault or any number of excuses. But the truth is, many people are only a few paycheques away from being in the same condition.
So, it’s a very good thing that Penticton is about to add 42 units of low-cost rental housing to its inventory with the conversion of the Bel-Air motel. That, plus the 70-unit development planned for Brunswick Street will go a long way to helping.
But affordable housing shouldn’t be left up to the federal, provincial and municipal governments to fund. We need some incentives to encourage developers to either build affordable housing or include that as a portion of their projects.
And when you listen to a developer talk about their project being affordable housing at over $400,000 a unit, it’s clear that someone needs to define what really qualifies as “affordable.”
We’re not saying developers shouldn’t build to make a profit for themselves. But all levels of government could come together to create a package of regulations, tax breaks and funding incentives to make affordable rental housing more tempting for developers.