As Kamloops housing market pops, families stuck in the 'middle'

Jade Sallows with her boyfriend and two children.
Jade Sallows with her boyfriend and two children.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Jade Sallows

Jade Sallows is in a bind.

She has to find a new home in the next couple of months for her family of four, but growing pressure in the Kamloops housing market is leaving them with few options.

The pandemic has left Sallows unemployed, and while she has more time to both spend with her two children and focus on her photography business, it makes finding a place to live increasingly tough.

“The prices are so inflated. There’s two-bedroom basement suites going for $1,800 a month and they’re not even updated. I’ve applied for a dozen places and haven’t even gotten a showing,” Sallows said. “It’s one hundred per cent because I have pets and kids.”

She currently rents a 650 square-foot basement suite with her family at less than $1,200 a month. It’s small, but they don’t complain about the space.

A booming real estate market has squeezed low and middle income earners. While real estate sales in Kamloops have reached record highs, city council continues to search for ways to find homes for the homeless. Meanwhile, Sallows and her family feel left behind in the middle.

READ MORE: Ultra-rich 'market movers' shaping Okanagan, Kamloops real estate markets

“You’re ignoring a whole population because people don’t like seeing the homeless,” Sallows said. “I’ve lived here my whole life. If I leave, I’ll lose my entire support system.”

She’s reached out to city and provincial agencies to raise awareness and ask for assistance, but each one referred her along to the next. From city officials to the Residential Tenancy Board then B.C. Housing, she was left with disappointment.

But the city’s development and sustainability committee’s meeting on Monday left her feeling finally recognized.

Councillor Kathy Sinclair said to that the committee discussed the growing need to add density and diversify housing inventory in Kamloops.

“There’s sometimes a perception that you rent until you can buy, but that doesn't always work for everybody,” Sinclair said.

READ MORE: Tough times ahead for struggling renters in Kelowna

She’s concerned that the growing costs for both buyers and renters is putting residents in Kamloops in a tough spot. In order to ease that pressure, she hopes rezoning and developer incentives will increase housing supply.

“As a municipality we can incentivize duplexes, fourplexes, cooperative and subsidized housing. Often when we talk about affordable housing we talk about shelters, but the true definition is housing that is 30% of a person’s income,” Sinclair said.

She said staff at the development and sustainability department in Kamloops are currently revising zoning bylaws. She wants to see multi-family homes included in future developments, which will avoid an increase to the city’s sprawling neighbourhoods and densify the city.

Sinclair said city officials want to avoid building more high rise apartment buildings in certain residential neighbourhoods. She said many homeowners don’t want to see taller buildings in their neighbourhoods, so low rise apartments and other multi-family dwellings will be their answer to a dwindling real estate supply.

READ MORE: iN VIDEO: Kelowna's One Water Street penthouse could be yours for $10 million

“It’s an interesting confluence of events, with COVID and people working from home, they find opportunities to come to a new, more affordable city when compared to the Lower Mainland. It brings benefits but also presents new challenges,” Sinclair said.

New development incentives and zoning changes won’t be discussed again at the city until proposals are brought to the table in June, which leaves Sallows and her family on the hook for now to find a place in the fast-paced market of today.

Sallows isn’t discouraged, though. She feels that people like her — low and middle income earners — are being recognized, and she’ll continue to bear the rental market squeeze for now.

“I’ll find a way, because that’s what mothers do.”

— This story was updated at 11:57 a.m. Thursday, March 25, 2021 to clarify that city officials are avoiding high rise buildings in certain neighbourhoods.

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