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Letters  

Worker and housing issues

From what I have experienced and seen over the years and in particular the last 5 or so years. There might be some small differences between all okanagan communities, but all are suffering from lack of ability to retain workers in almost any particular work area. It is not surprising to hear that tourism based companies are suffering from this now as well. Most workers that fill those jobs do so at 15 or under dollars an hour, here in the okanagan especially that is no longer a living wage and has not been for a while. For the high cost of housing if you can find it, a lower wage in which to get a rental, and having to travel with an increase in gas all factor heavily into the attractiveness of a community to workers in those industries. Some workers do not drive, however if  you are unable to find affordable or any rentals in the same town then that eliminates the other town from attracting these workers. 

Years before workers could live on seasonal work and switch between seasonal jobs to get full time work. Those days seem to be getting further and further apart now. Seasonal workers who stay in these communities or even move around, can no longer depend that they will be able to get sustainable work throughout the year. Also that seasonal work might be able to sustain them through the next season of work if there is a down turn.

What I keep hearing from people I talk to and that seek me about to talk about housing is that lack of housing in their price range. Even for people who make 2000 or more after taxes are struggling to find housing that is  at or under 50% of their monthly income. The most common range I see if people paying between 1000 to 1500 for even a 1 bedroom, I have seen a few examples of even a roommate situation going for even as high as 950.00 a month.

So while Pentiction may have more people applying for jobs, the number that stays or are able to stay long term I would say remains the same as the smaller towns like Oliver and Osoyoos. I would also say another reason Penticton might see higher numbers of applicants is from the existing population based in Penticton.  This meaning people who already own or rent in Penticton and do not need to search for accommodations.

More and more are still living with relatives who have or own a home, this is becoming an increasingly popular trend. This allows more income for the household while the renter can maintain more affordable rates than the market is asking for. As we see this older population scale down we will either see an inheritance of these properties and a culture shift towards a more affordable communal living arrangement in families and generation gaps. The other option being that we see a generation that becomes more fractured as housing becomes even more scarce as those properties are lost to various other factors. 

I think the example of a program director for housing in Penticton being unable to find housing and moving else where speaks volumes as to the just hard it in reality. Over the next few years I think we are going to find a large portion of what an employer needs to do to attract workers is invest in their own housing. Communities are going to need to step up and provide for themselves and rely less on government funding and programs to keep ahead of the curve. If we do not step up to support in a real way our communities then will lose their resilience to these external and internal forces affecting our various work forces.

Shawn Hathaway



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