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Housing vital signs critical in North Okanagan

Community Foundation North Okanagan’s report focuses on community issues

There are 11 issues highlighted in the 2023 Community Foundation of North Okanagan’s (CFNO) Vital Signs report.

Tops among them – and featured prominently in the centre spread of the 24-page glossy report – is housing.

“It’s the biggest story,” said CFNO board director Annette Sharkey, whose day job is executive director of the Social Planning Council of North Okanagan. “If you’re housing is not stable, it’s going to impact everything in your world.

“We’ve got families staying in hotels now. That’s something we didn’t see even five years ago.”

The report was officially released at CFNO’s annual community meeting Tuesday, Nov. 28, before about 100 guests at the Prestige Inn.

Vital Signs is a community check-up conducted by community foundations across Canada. The report measures the vitality of communities and identifies significant trends in a range of areas critical to quality of life.

Through the North Okanagan report, one learns the average median home price in 2023 is $749,000. That’s risen from $380,000 in 2017, and $420,000 in 2019.

Multi-family housing is now trending as there were 203 such starts in Vernon in 2022, nearly doubling the single-family housing starts (116).

The rental vacancy rate is 0.9 per cent.

The report also shows a smattering of responses from a CFNO community survey.

Asked if there is affordable housing for people of all income levels in the community, 84.6 per cent of respondents disagreed/strongly disagreed, and nearly 57 per cent disagreed/strongly disagreed that the community takes appropriate action to decrease homelessness.

The latest Vernon homeless count showed 279 people living without a roof, up from 224 in the 2021 count.

“Housing is the biggest challenge for communities right now,” said Sharkey. “Even the middle income is struggling with housing right now. It’s not just people at the bottom.”

Vital Signs is a cornerstone document for CFNO, helping the organization understand trends and changes in the region. It also helps magnify the region’s assets and identify the challenges.

“Stakeholders that rely on Vital Signs include local governments, charities and non-profits, other community groups, and residents,” said CFNO executive director Leanne Hammond.

The 11 issue areas highlighted in the report are housing, arts and culture, belonging and participation, environment, transportation, health and wellness, income gap, work and economy, cultural diversity, learning and safety.

CFNO is planning to hold what it calls Vital Conversations on the issues in 2024.

Board chairperson Dominik Dlouhy called the report a “call to action.”

“Share the report with your friends, colleagues, neighbours, or an elected/public official at any level,” said Dlouhy. “Learn about the many organizations working to improve our community, and how you can get involved, too.”

The 2023 Community Foundation North Okanagan Vital Signs report – the first since 2020 – will be available to read online at cfno.org.

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Roger Knox

About the Author: Roger Knox

I am a journalist with more than 30 years of experience in the industry. I started my career in radio and have spent the last 21 years working with Black Press Media.
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