Would you like to subscribe to our newsletters?

Vernon school district joins business in demand for more affordable worker housing

Image Credit: Submitted/City of Vernon

Vernon schools are struggling to recruit workers because of the housing crisis. So are other employers, such as Interior Health.

“For the first time, we’ve had a number of people who we’ve offered positions to who had to let go of the offer or not accept it because they were unable to find housing in the North Okanagan,” Malcolm Reid, director of human resources at School District 22, said in a news release issued, May 23.

“Vernon is the greatest place to raise a family but you have to be able to find housing to do so.”

The school district is one of the region’s largest employers. So is Interior Health. It has a 15% vacancy rate for workers in the North Okanagan, the release says.

“We know that it can be a challenge for people to find housing, and this can be a barrier to attracting new professionals to the region,” Richard Harding, executive director of clinical operations, North Okanagan and Interior Health Emergency Services Network, said in the release.

“Interior Health supports all efforts to provide affordable housing options in our area, especially housing that supports healthcare professionals’ ability to live in our community.”

Two years ago, the Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce sent a letter to the Prime Minister, Premier and finance ministers calling for action on housing.

READ MORE: Okanagan business renews call for government action on labour shortage

“While progress has been made by government and non-profits in constructing housing for those at the lower end of the financial spectrum, many individuals and families in the middle-income bracket find it difficult to rent or purchase a home in the current market,” Krystin Kempton, the chamber’s president at the time, said.

It called for a labour study to determine why people were not taking jobs.

It seems nothing has changed.

Just last week, Jenn Podmore, a vice-president for the real estate company Rennie Group, told West Kelowna city council that the pace of construction needs to pick up to deal with the 90,000 more people expected to be living in the Central Okanagan over the next 20 years.

READ MORE: Pace of Central Okanagan housing construction needs to pick up dramatically

The province has promised legislation this fall to do things like allowing fourplexes on most or all single-family lots in BC in order to speed up the development process.

Podmore said it will actually be 3.5 to seven years before people can move into homes that are just being contemplated today.

In June last year, reported the pace of housing construction in the Thompson-Okanagan needed to triple in order to keep up with demand.

READ MORE: Pace of housing construction needs to triple in Thompson-Okanagan

That was based on reports from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and the Chartered Professional Accountants of BC.

“As a principal, I saw lots of kids graduate from high school and move away for university or other post-secondary training and get a job,” Reid, the human resources direct with the Vernon school distri said.

“Eventually, they would want to move back to Vernon to raise a family. What they’re finding is they’re challenged to do that. They’re not able to come back and find that house and live the life they had growing up and they’re looking at other parts of the province to do so.”

The Regional District of North Okanagan’s housing strategy says more than half of new homes in the region need to be either two-bedroom apartments or small ranchers. The remaining half could be split between studio suites or one-bedroom apartments and multi-bedroom single-family homes.

“Diverse housing helps our economy thrive through the development of options,” Leigha Horsfield, executive director, Community Futures North Okanagan, said in the release.

“In order for us to able to attract the nurse, the tile setter, the tech worker and the specialized teacher, we need to have a diverse landscape of housing so that these folks are able to secure a home and get settled in our community.”

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

We welcome your comments and opinions on our stories but play nice. We won't censor or delete comments unless they contain off-topic statements or links, unnecessary vulgarity, false facts, spam or obviously fake profiles. If you have any concerns about what you see in comments, email the editor in the link above.