August 05, 2016 - 12:00 PM
The Kamloops housing market is hot. There’s a 13 percent increase in sales from a year ago. In the region, sales are up 25 per cent. That’s good news for sellers. It’s good news for builders. More houses are selling and prices are going up.
But it’s harder and harder for people buying. Also left on the sidelines are renters, who are finding the Kamloops market harder and harder to afford.
It’s especially difficult for people on fixed or low incomes. Difficult for people on income assistance, on a disability pension, a small fixed pension, or working minimum wage.
For the last 10 years, the B.C. Liberal government has not increased income assistance. Income assistance has been $610 for an adult since 2007. That $610 has to cover all the costs for the month, and the biggest one is housing. The best most people can hope for is a single room for about $375 per month. The other $233 (or $7.93 per day) has to cover all other expenses starting with food. There is a very limited number of low cost accommodation in Kamloops. Finding a room for $375 is difficult.
A person on disability gets a bit more at $931 plus a bus pass (a mere $25 increase since 2007).
Even someone working, earning minimum wage has a hard time affording rent. At $10.85 per hour, they’d earn about $1,700. One or two bedroom apartments in Kamloops rent for about $800 to $1000 per month.
More and more people are turning to charities to make ends meet. In Kamloops, there are range of charities which provide food and meals. One I know about the most, because I’ve helped out there, is the Pit Stop, operated by the Kamloops United Church. When I started helping there about a decade ago, there were about 50 to 60 people for the Pit Stop Sunday dinner. Now they regularly get 200 people every Sunday.
At the Pit Stop dinner, there are seniors, young families, single men and women, and people with disabilities. There are all types of people, but they all have one thing in common. They spend almost all their income on housing, and need to go to charities in order to eat.
Rising housing costs hits everyone. It especially hits people with the lowest incomes: people working minimum wage jobs, students, people with disabilities. Half of all single parent families live in poverty, and housing costs can be especially hard for them, since they often also have childcare costs.
In Kamloops right now, there is a bit of a housing boom. All around town, single-family houses, townhouses and apartments are being built. That’s a good thing.
But there has been no housing boom in affordable housing.
In Kamloops, since 2009, there hasn’t been any affordable housing built aside from seniors housing. The last purpose-built affordable housing built in Kamloops was in 2009, when Georgian Court on Tranquille was built by the John Howard Society. People with low incomes have fewer and fewer housing options.
It’s great that there is a housing boom in Kamloops. But unless the provincial Liberal government comes up with a plan for making housing affordable for people at the bottom, there will be even more individuals and families, more seniors and people disabilities coming to meal programs like Pit Stop. There will be even more people working minimum wage jobs trying to make the rent, and wondering if they’ll be able to make the rent.
— Nancy Bepple is a recovering politician and local news junkie. She expects she will never recover from her love of the banjo.
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