The “From Strategy to Action” housing forum held in Fort St. James on July 17 is the first step in addressing the Fort’s huge rental problem, says Deputy Corporate Officer Emily Colombo.
“There were presentations from planners across the north, regarding how they are tackling their own housing problems,” she said of the meeting, which was lightly attended. “Our housing strategy was completed in 2014, but nothing has been done since then, because there’s a such a huge spectrum of choices available. Now we have to get things moving forward, and the July meeting was a way to get the ball rolling.”
Colombo points out that Fort St. James, along with other northern communities, faces huge challenges when it comes to housing, particularly rentals. “Camp housing has its own problems, and when there’s no camp housing workers come to town to rent. This drives rents up, and prices out the locals.”
Since January 2014 Colombo has been maintaining a comprehensive database of what rental properties are available in the Fort, and how many people are seeking rental accommodation and what type. One form is for landlords, and asks questions such as whether or not they allow children or pets, the number of bedrooms, and if the accommodation is furnished or unfurnished. The form for renters asks such things as whether or not they are open to sharing, if they have transportation, and the minimum and maximum rent they’re looking for.
As of July 2015, says Colombo, there were 416 seekers looking for rental accommodation, and only 11 rental units available: four shared accommodations; two suites; three houses; and two apartments.
A tentative date of Sept. 17 has been set for the next meeting, which will look at implementing the municipal housing action plan and bringing recommendations forward. “Everyone is welcome to attend,” says Colombo. “The more input we get from the community, the better.”