While the City of Penticton is taking a proper approach to dealing with the issues surrounding the Winnipeg Manor rooming house, the issues surrounding the crowded house point to larger issues regarding low-cost housing in Penticton.
To wit: there isn’t much of it, at least through the summer season. Each spring, we hear stories of people unable to find affordable accommodations after motels begin their annual conversion from monthly rentals to vacation mode. So it’s not surprising to find crowded conditions in some of the lower-cost rental units as people struggle to put a roof over their heads. But it begs the question of what can be done to create more affordable housing. Let’s face it, the money for developers is in high-end condo developments and individual properties. It stands to reason that there simply isn’t as much return — nor does it come as fast — from building rental units as opposed to condos that sell for $300,000 a unit.
Silicon Valley is a good example of development run amok. As the tech sector boomed, instant millionaires all wanted homes that reflected their new wealth and lifestyle. Nothing wrong with that, but the side effect was the elimination of affordable housing — some demolished to make room for new construction and rents rising on others as landlords looked for their piece of the action.
The result was that in the early 2000s, people with good middle-class jobs couldn’t afford to put a roof over their heads. Waitresses were found living in homeless shelters or in crowded flop houses, while others had to commute for hours to get to their jobs. It was a nightmare scenario that is not likely to occur in Penticton, and certainly not as fast. But as land and housing costs rise, it’s something the city needs to bear in mind, both as they deal with the scarce affordable housing that is available now as well as make plans to ensure the Silicon Valley situation doesn’t creep up on our community by degrees.