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Princeton families suffering with rental housing crunch

Amanda Cowper (centre) surrounded by members of her family.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Amanda Cowper
March 14, 2021 - 8:00 PM

A Princeton family is feeling the pressure of the town’s less than 1% rental vacancy rate as they desperately search for a home that’s big enough to support them.

Amanda Cowper, her fiancé and their six children are currently living in a home that is not meeting their needs and was intended to be temporary.

“We’re considering moving all of family, interests, all of our investments, all of our future... (in) Princeton because we can’t live here anymore because there’s nowhere for us to live,” she said.

In recent years, Princeton has experienced an unprecedented housing crunch. It currently has less than a 1% rental vacancy rate and a housing analysis presented to the city council last year outlined the dire need for rental housing in the community.

READ MORE: Lower Mainlanders flocking to small Thompson-Okanagan towns

Princeton also saw a 17% increase in the 2021 single-family home assessments. In a previous interview with iNFOnews, Judy Klassen, realtor and property manager with Century 21, said many newcomers have come for the Copper Mountain mine and from the Fraser Valley, and it’s putting upward pressure on home prices and availability.

In the last four years, Cowper has lived in Princeton, she’s struggled to find a permanent home. When she first moved to the town, she lived in a trailer or her parents’ property with her then-boyfriend, before eventually moving into a three-bedroom house, she said.

But that house was in “awful shape,” she said, and when she and her ex-boyfriend split, her brother moved in to help share the cost of the rent. Eventually, the house sold, and she was forced to move.

She settled into another house with her children, fiance Trevor Hunt and his children, but were then asked to leave as the landlords decided to renovate the home in August, which gave them only a month to find another place during the pandemic, she said.

Their current home didn’t have running water when they moved into it, she said, but they didn’t inspect it beforehand as it was given to them as a favour and it was intended to be temporary. 

“We have put thousands of dollars into this house, but everything we fix, two more things break. We just can’t live here anymore,” Cowper said.

After finding another potential home, Cowper said it wasn’t rented to them as the landlord had a contract to supply housing for Copper Mountain mine workers and had to supply the workers with the home instead.

Copper Mountain Mining Corporation is currently expanding its location near Princeton, according to the company’s press release. Construction on the expansion is expected to be completed by 2023 and the mine’s life is expected to last for 21 years.

“I have seen in the last few years, landlords are feeling the crunch more than anything," she said.

"They’re selling their houses to take advantage of the rising property values and cashing out and selling the house to people coming here to live, and kicking out all the renters."

Mayor Spencer Coyne said the city has been working with developers to facilitate development in the city as effectively as possible. The city has hired a full-time building inspector and now has three contracted planners, he said.

The population of Princeton hasn’t fluctuated much for the last 100 years, he said. But the town’s location in the Interior means it’s not a long commute to the Lower Mainland, or other urban centres in the Thompson Okanagan, which has made it a desirable place to live, he said.

Coyne couldn’t say if temporary workers coming into the community are exacerbating the housing shortage.

“There’s a need for the temporary workers as well that are coming into the community to do that work, and a lot of it is being covered by the hotels," Coyne said.

"The crunch is on here, and we’re seeing a lot pressure as well from more urban centres… people are able to work at home in our community… it’s a bit of a struggle, but it’s a good struggle to have as we’re pouring all we have into solving this issue."

There are currently strata units and developments being built in the town, with roughly 40 residential units that have been given the green light by city council, and more are in the works, Coyne said.

“We’re in discussions with developers just about daily. The one place we’re still lacking in seniors housing, so we’re working with partners to get those B.C. Housing developments in the community… it’s all great to have market housing, but we need to have the other part to it as well.”

Cowper isn’t blaming anyone for the housing crunch and believes the mine’s expansion is good for the community, but “something needs to give or good families, like us, will leave the community,” she said.

“I need help, I can’t do it on my own anymore.”

 

 


To contact a reporter for this story, email Carli Berry or call 250-864-7494 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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