The North’s Changing Housing Needs
Prince George, B.C.- Delegates from a broad spectrum of the housing sector will be converging on UNBC later today in advance of the Northern B.C. Housing Conference.
The conference is themed “Housing Solutions for Changing Communities”, and will see policy makers, developers, planners, realtors lenders and non-profit organizations get the details on the recent housing issues identified in the Northern B.C. Housing study.
While the details of the study won’t be released until tomorrow morning, Community Development Institute Co-Director Marleen Morris says the 10 Northern communities they examined are changing “The study identified a number of factors that are going to impact our opportunities and challenges in the coming years.” She says one of the main factors is the changing demographic in the North “We are seeing a situation where we are seeing a rapidly aging population in Northern British Columbia and that’s combined with the fact that as those people retire and move out of the work force, we will also be attracting new younger aged families into the region. So that’s one factor that is clearly going to impact the housing opportunities and needs in the future.”
Another factor is the age of housing stock in the north. Most homes in northern communities were built prior to 1980 “In many cases they aren’t as energy efficient as they could be, they aren’t well suited for the people who live those homes anymore as the residents are , generally, older and they are not well suited for the needs of young families. So the condition of our housing stock speaks to the opportunity for renovation and reconstruction in a lot of our communities.”
She is optimistic the participation of a broad range of people involved in housing taking part in the conference will result in action “We have people at the table who can take these issues, look at them from a variety of perspectives and start developing solutions through collaboration and partnerships for moving forward.”
There has been much talk of a resource development boom, and while many of the proposed projects ( such as the construction of the Site C dam) involve the development of work camps, but Morris says that won’t have much impact on the housing needs of a community as the work camps are usually established for a transitory construction stage. She maintains the major impact will be the retirement of those already in a community’s work force and that means new workers will be looking to move into the area “One of the first things they ( new workers) look for, is housing in the community they move to. If we don’t have the housing stock available in those communities, we will lose the opportunity to capitalize on that new economic activity and lose the opportunity to attract and retain those new workers.”
While the conference gets down to business tomorrow morning, there is a public lecture this evening at UNBC at 7 pm in room 6-205 ( near the Canfor Theatre) when Dr. Greg Halseth, will present “Legacies and Possibilites: How Community and Economic Change are Shaping the Housing Landscape”.