While the global economic downturn has brought changes to almost every facet of our lives, it seems to have had little effect on housing.
One of the primary issues prior to the recession was a lack of affordable housing. The economy was booming and even people with good-paying jobs couldn’t find a place to live, which had a significant impact on the economy.
But over the last couple of years, economic conditions have softened, jobs are becoming harder to find and not as many people are moving into the South Okanagan.
And while rental vacancies may becoming easier to find, they remain unaffordable for many segments of the local population. It is clear that finding affordable housing continues to be a challenge.
In fact, the latest rental market report from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation shows the overall vacancy rate has risen to six per cent in April 2011, up from 4.1 per cent in April 2010. Meanwhile, with the notable exception of townhouses with three or more bedrooms, the rental rates have remained fairly constant. For somebody who has lost their job, had their wage frozen or is just working minimum wage, the cost of housing doesn’t leave much for bills and other necessities of life. Demand at the food bank is at an all-time high.
But affordable housing appears to have dropped off the table. Unlike before the recession, the issue isn’t dominating discussion among elected officials, developers and social agencies. Any previous concern that prospective employees and investors were being chased away by high housing costs isn’t on the agenda of business organizations.
Eventually, the economy will turn around and the market will start heating up again. That means even more pressure will be placed on those looking for a place to call home.
Now, and not later, is the time for the community to take this issue seriously and start taking action.