Better days coming for Kelowna but helping homeless is key: Kelowna Mayor | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Better days coming for Kelowna but helping homeless is key: Kelowna Mayor

Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran
Image Credit: Submitted/City of Kelowna
March 23, 2021 - 1:43 PM

In an upbeat “state of the union” address on how well the City of Kelowna has weathered the COVID-19 storm, Mayor Colin Basran also pointed out that there are residents who need significant and innovative help.

“Better days are coming,” Basran said in wrapping up his annual speech to the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce today, March 23.

He also pointed out that he is co-chair of B.C.'s Urban Mayors Caucus that has a top priority of dealing with social issues that plague most communities in B.C.

“In particular, housing and supports for what we’re calling 'residents with complex needs,'” Basran said in answer to a question about what issues he sees facing downtown businesses.

“Those would be residents with significant mental health and addiction issues whose issues are so severe that they actually don’t fit into the current model of supportive housing being offered up by the provincial government and, as a result of that, those people are on our streets. They’re a danger to themselves. They’re a danger to the public, at times. But they also decrease the perception of safety in our downtown core.”

After holding talks with Premier John Horgan, Basran said he is hopeful the province will have money in its upcoming budget for “first-of-their-kind complex-care housing facilities so we can get people who are currently on our streets — who, as I say, don’t fit in the current supportive housing model — into housing but, also more importantly, getting them the help they need.”

Other than that down note, most of what Basran had to say was about how well Kelowna has done during the pandemic and how it stands to emerge rapidly into better times as the pandemic hopefully winds down.

The city’s population grew by two per cent during the pandemic and unemployment is lower than it was before COVID hit at about this time last year, he said.

Real estate prices have skyrocketed and, while housing starts were down last year, that follows five years of very strong, and at times record-breaking growth, he said.

Kelowna isn’t necessarily encouraging people to move here but Basran understands why so many want to do so.

“If you can live in Kelowna and work remotely for a company anywhere, why wouldn’t you?” he said, pointing out the many attractions of the city and region such as the lake, climate, “foody culture,” entrepreneurial energy and wine.

“I’ll put the reasons to move here up against anywhere else in Canada, or the world, for that matter,” he said.

During the past couple of years, the city has talked about 40,000 more people moving to Kelowna in the next 20 years. Now, Basran has updated that to 45,000.

That means the city has to do more to provide affordable housing not just through provincial or federal subsidy programs but by encouraging developers to build infill housing that’s more affordable.

And he dismissed a concern that the city’s focus on developing urban centres might push people wanting single family homes to move to West Kelowna or Lake Country.

He pointed out that Kelowna has a 10-year supply of single family lots already on the books and, if more people gravitate to urban centres, that supply may stretch even longer.

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.

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