Home builders association hosting roundtable on housing

Roundtable on housing

With housing affordability one of the key issues in the provincial election, the Central Okanagan division of the Canadian Home Builders Association is housing a roundtable on just that. 

“Outside of Covid, housing affordability is one of the biggest issues facing our region right now,” says Dan Winer, executive officer. “Housing costs continue to rise, and residents of the Okanagan need to know that their politicians are representing them. Right now, we need candidates who are looking at ways to help with housing access for the people that call the Okanagan home.”

To afford a home in Kelowna right now a household needs to earn $110,000 a year, far above the average wage of $45,000 for local residents. The average price of a home in Kelowna is now over $700,000.

Participating in the roundtable will be: 

  • Matt Badura - Libertarian Party - Kelowna West
  • Spring Hawes - New Democratic Party - Kelowna West
  • Renee Merrifield - Liberal Party - Kelowna Mission
  • Amanda Poon - Green Party - Kelowna Mission

The event is Thursday at 4 p.m.; it'll take place online and be open to the general public. Those interested in participating can register here.

The roundtable discussion will discuss all forms of housing, as well as energy efficiency, renovations and support for the trades.


La Cantinita Lake Country has opened, offering fresh authentic Mexican cuisine

A taste of Mexico

A little taste of Mexico has come to Lake Country at the newly opened La Cantinita.

La Cantinita is an expansion of Salmon Arm's Cantina Vallarta, opening alongside a third location just opened in Sicamous. While the owners say it is a challenging time for businesses amid the COVID-19 pandemic, they were ready to take on the risk.

Carmen Ruiz has operated the Mex Can distribution service throughout the Okanagan for several years, bringing Mexican ingredients and foods to restaurants and individuals from Westbank to Salmon Arm. When the opportunity to open La Cantina Lake Country came up with now business partner Ivan Gracia, Ruiz was ready.

"I moved to Canada 14 years ago. Eventually when I started my other business importing Mexican food, I started realizing how much I could grow in this country," she says.

La Cantinita Lake Country officially opened on Sept. 3.

"We are inviting everybody to come over and meet us and try our food," says Ruiz. "Burritos are very popular, quesadillas, enchiladas, chimichangas...you can choose the flavour you like - chicken, beef, pork or vegetarian. We have vegan too." 

All dishes are prepared daily and are made from scratch, providing an authentic taste of Mexico. 

And while seating is very limited due to the COVID-19 pandemic, visitors are welcome to order take out.

"It's been challenging especially because we cannot keep people inside," says Ruiz. "Its a shame because we love the connection with people.

"We have big plans for this place. Hopefully all the pandemic goes away soon and then we can start improving. We are planning to have live music, set up all the tables hopefully soon."

La Cantinita Lake Country is open Tuesday to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and is located off of Highway 97 at 9685 in the Winfield Plaza.

Swimco closes all stores nationally, including Kelowna

Retailer closes for good

Another Canadian retailer has fallen victim to COVID-19. 

Swimco, which had a location in Kelowna’s Orchard Park Mall, shut down permanently earlier this month.

“After 45 years in business, Swimco must close its doors. Thank you for all the support and memories you gave us during this adventure,” the company’s website says.

“Canada is a country built on family business, and with that drive and determination we will see bluer skies in the future.”

Retail Insider reports the swimwear company attempted to restructure under creditor protection earlier this year. But on Oct. 13, a certificate of bankruptcy was filed. Swimco’s stores have been closed since Oct. 10, although inventory continues to be liquidated online.

The national retailer had 25 locations in Canada before the pandemic was declared.

The family company aimed to fit a wide range of sizes and shapes. It started before the words “body positive” became part of our lexicon.

Swimco began as a mail-order business in the 1970s and opened its first retail store in Calgary in 1982, opening in Victoria in the 1990s. In 2011, the company bought Swimwear Etc., expanding its numbers. It moved to online sales in 2014.

Swimco was known for what it called its “fit experts” who helped customers find the most flattering suits.

with files from the Times Colonist


Another Kelowna restaurant has closed due to COVID-19

Another restaurant closes

Another Kelowna restaurant has been forced to close as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Vintner's Grill in the Capri Hotel closed this week as a result of the lack of traffic in the restaurant.

A spokesperson for the Capri Hotel tells Castanet Vintner's Grill was forced to close on Monday because of the challenges presented by the virus and the restrictions around seating capacity and hours, "not enough business, not enough seating for the business we did have, so we're biting the bullet."

A post on the restaurant's website says while the restaurant remains closed, the hotel is offering a free boxed breakfast to guests. It is not known when the restaurant will reopen.

Vintner's is just the latest Kelowna bar or restaurant that have been forced to close due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the protocols that have been put in place to help stop the spread of the virus.

Fernando’s Pub will close Oct. 24 until the spring, citing COVID-19 restrictions, "although we support the provincial government’s public health orders, we believe it is the responsible choice for our business and community to shut our doors for now."

Smack DAB at the Manteo Resort is also closing for the winter.

New UBC study focuses on improving wellbeing during COVID-19 pandemic

The science of happiness

Researchers are recruiting participants for a new University of British Columbia study focusing on wellbeing and happiness during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The free ENHANCE program, administered by UBC in partnership with healthcare software company Thrive Health, will unpack the impact of COVID-19 on overall wellbeing, life satisfaction and positive feelings.

This includes public health measures associated with the pandemic, such as social distancing, quarantine and self-isolation. 

The ENHANCE program provides participants with daily cognitive and behavioural exercises, as well as tutorials and guidance from the study authors, to help implement skills to improve happiness and wellbeing within the context of a global pandemic.

Led by UBC director of clinical training and psychology professor Dr. Lesley Lutes, the study based on extensive psychology research guides participants through regular goal setting using a small-changes approach.

“COVID-19 has created stressors and challenged the mental health of many across the globe as they struggle with the loss of income, loss of social connection and generalized fear around the risks associated with visiting physical spaces. What we often don’t realize is that tensions, such as these, are bi-directionally correlated with our physical health,” says Lutes.

“Research has proven that our physical health impacts our mental health or emotional well-being and our well-being or mental health impacts our physical health.” 

The clinical trial will be hosted on the Thrive Health platform, before being released for the general public in 2021.

“At Thrive Health we believe that our healthcare system needs to not only treat illnesses, but to help people to thrive. This project will measure how well the Thrive Health platform is able to improve people’s level of well-being, which is an important part of why we’re here," says Thrive Health CEO David Helliwell.

“Whether someone is managing their chronic pain, preparing for surgery, experiencing a challenging pregnancy, or just living through a pandemic, the Thrive platform not only helps them manage their physical health but also monitors and assists with their overall well-being and happiness.”

If you're a resident of British Columbia, aged 19 to 75 years old and interested in signing up, visit the website to register by Friday, Oct. 23. 

Kelowna-Mission Greens candidate Amanda Poon sits down with Castanet News

Amanda Poon: 1 on 1

Amanda Poon is seeking your votes as she runs for the Green Party in the Kelowna-Mission riding in Saturday's provincial election.

An Interior Health employee, Poon is looking to earn the seat left vacant by the retirement of longtime MLA Steve Thomson.

Poon sat down with Castanet news to discuss the election and the issues facing Kelowna-Mission.

On what is important to her:

"It's important to me that everybody in the city has the opportunity to be represented and exercise their democratic right to vote, as well as their right to run. For me, this election was also an opportunity because this was the first election, not counting that last byelection with the Christy Clark switcheroo, but the first election really where corporate money and big labour money has been capped. They are not allowed to donate to campaigns, there's limits for a first time. That to me is a small window, even though I am an underdog and a longshot. If you look at the statistics there's no chance. If you're a poker player like myself you might not go all-in in my candidacy. But, the fact we are capping donations means candidates like me who don't have that big engine of corporations and unions behind them can have a bit of a chance to enter the race, and at least be sitting here in this seat with you."

On Green Party values:

"I am attracted to the Green Party because it connects with my core values. The Green Party believes in participatory democracy, meaning everybody can participate. There's no barriers to anyone entering, regardless of your economic status or your background. They also believe in accountability. I think in the past, the Green Party hasn't really been given any space to talk about what they represents. As a newer party, they have been developing and growing.

"The Green Party really believes in evidence-based policy and also living within our means. Environmentalism is very much at the core of the Green Party, addressing climate change and these other environmental issues we see here in the Okanagan like flood and fire."

On leading B.C. out of the pandemic:

"I don't know if everybody saw the B.C. leadership debate. I thought Sonia Furstenau really shone in that debate. She was very cool headed. I think for a long time there has been a lot of unsavoury things happening in politics. In the age of Mr. Trump down south, and in the age of social media, which we've all been spending a little too much time on in the pandemic I think and I've been guilty of that as well. But, I think that has caused a climate of negativity and these ad hominem attacks on personalities. We've lost sight on policies.

"The Green Party, being a party that focuses on the policies and ideas more so than the politics and the personalities I think is the party we need right now. I don't think we need to be paying people to have Twitter arguments. I think we need to pay people to roll up their sleeves and do some work, do some research and put forward some solutions to the problems we are all suffering from."

On voting for Amanda Poon:

"I think it's time to vote for someone who has lived the issues we are talking about. We have had representation making decision on things that affect your daily life, health care, child care, transportation and the economy. We often hear we need to get people back to work, but I know from talking within my circle and talking with people I've met through my time in working in health care as I do now, but as well as agriculture and construction and trades, you never stopped working, you just aren't getting paid what you deserve.

"I think it's time you actually elected someone with a kid in the public school system, someone trying to navigate school buses. Someone who has never owned a vehicle as myself couldn't afford to, and someone who actually knows what it's like to be working in a time when there is so much economic uncertainty, environmental uncertainty, and a lot of questions that haven't been answered by the last three years of leadership, and were never addressed by the previous 16."

You can watch the entire interview below.

Read more BC Election 2020 coverage on Castanet here.

A Kelowna French-language school has registered a positive test for COVID-19

School reports positive test

Kelowna has registered its first positive case of COVID-19 within the school system.

In a brief email, Interior Health confirmed the single positive test at a french-language school, which is not part of the Central Okanagan School District.

"We can confirm a member of the École de l’Anse-au-sable school community has tested positive for COVID-19, but can’t provide further details for privacy reasons," the statement read.

"The individual was at the school on Oct. 13, 14 and 15."

There is no indication whether the individual was a student, teacher, administrator or staff member.

"The important aspect to note is that public health will directly contact anyone who may have been exposed."

Health officials say if you have symptoms such as fever, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing or other milder symptoms, you should get tested.

You do not need to be tested for the virus if you have no symptoms.

This is the second known case of COVID-19 in the Okanagan since the school year began nearly six weeks ago. The other was a single case at Clarence Fulton Secondary in Vernon earlier this month.

There have been five reported cases within Interior Health, the other occurring in schools in Invermere, Castlegar and Rossland.

Kelowna woman reported missing on Monday has been found

Missing woman located

Kelowna RCMP say a 27-year-old woman reported missing Monday has been found.

No other information was provided.

The woman had last been seen Oct. 18 at 5 p.m., and police were concerned about her health and well-being.

Kelowna council endorses outside-the-box development

Support for new concept

Kelowna city council has again thrown its support behind what planning staff term a "pilot project development," incorporating industrial and residential uses.

Emil Anderson Construction, who brought forward the project, was unanimously awarded a development permit to move ahead with what will eventually be a four-storey industrial-residential building at Ethel Street and Crowley Avenue.

"Industrial and residential uses have traditionally thought to be conflicting land uses," planner Aaron Thibeault told council.

However, as mixed-use buildings have gained in popularity recently, the concept of including industrial and residential uses in the same building have gained greater acceptance."

While the concept has been tried on other B.C. communities, it will be a first in Kelowna.

Council initially endorsed the proposal in a slightly different form in early 2019. Thibeault said there was a delay in getting started, but says they are now ready to move forward.

The building would include three floors of industrial use with 10 apartments on the fourth.

He said the apartments are intended for workers on site, however, there is nothing formal in writing to ensure this.

"I am totally in support of the concept, and think it's long overdue," said Coun. Charlie Hodge.

"I think in this particular area, it's a great idea."

Hodge did caution about stating the suites would only be used for employees at the site.

When asked about protecting the city's industrial land base, Thibeault said the development is not limiting industrial use on the lot, but instead adding to it.

The city will use this as a pilot project before determining whether similar applications will be approved.

Rents staying high in Central Okanagan despite economic slowdown

Rental slump never came

Like the residential real estate market, the pandemic crash "just never came" for the Central Okanagan rental sector. 

While unemployment in the Kelowna area is sitting at eight per cent, roughly double what it was one year ago, the median price for a one-bedroom apartment in Kelowna is an eye-watering $1,500 a month — the fifth highest in the country.

“We haven’t been impacted in the ways that we thought we would be,” said Lindsay Anderson, property manager for Vantage West Realty.

While there was a two-week lull in activity in March and April, Anderson says renters in Kelowna appear to have carried on with their moving plans. 

“We’ve found that the demand has still been there, the pricing has been the same as years prior and maybe even a little higher."

Anderson noted they have made changes to the way to show and lease apartments — signing documents electronically, paying rent with e-transfers and Skype walkthroughs. 

Any slowdown of the rental market has been contained to areas that have been traditionally popular with students, who are now taking classes remotely. 

“Those areas that are normally really popular with students, like Academy Way… those buildings are normally packed, we have no problem finding tenants. This year, we are getting really competitive with pricing and hardly getting any inquiries,” Anderson said.

The biggest change has seen many owners of units that are traditionally rented out as vacation rentals in the summer months put those units into the long-term rental pool. As a result, the “hundreds” of units that traditionally hit the rental market in September have already been leased out.

“The market boomed into late September,” Anderson said, before slowly declining as it does every year towards the end of December.

According to PadMapper, the median cost for a two-bedroom rental in Kelowna was $1,750 in September, the sixth most expensive price among Canada 24 largest centres.

Looking to move? Find your next rental home on the Castanet Classifieds, the Okanagan's largest classified site and source of rental listings.

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