Kelowna's housing crisis

Kelowna has a housing crisis, and it doesn't only affect the homeless or disenfranchised.

If current trends continue, it will get much, much worse over the next 20 years.

The solution? Complex at best says Mayor Colin Basran.

"We should be looking at everything. Nothing should be off the table. This is a huge concern for most residents in our community, and there isn't one single solution," said Basran.

"It's going to take long term initiatives, and we need a comprehensive framework to start chipping away at it. This is that comprehensive framework to allow us to do that.

That framework came to council Monday afternoon in the form of a comprehensive look at the housing issue now, and in the future.

It chronicles a growing city with limited space to house its residents. And, with a 0.6 per cent vacancy rate, as few as 29 rental spaces are available in the city at any one time.

At the same time, nearly half of all renters in the city pay more than 30 per cent of their gross income on rent, higher than the recommended threshold. That number is just 19 per cent for home owners.

Barriers to ownership is also increasing. Since 2001, the median house price has risen 180 per cent, while income has increased just 82 per cent. By 2040, it's expected the median price of a house will nearly double to almost $1 million, while wages will go up only about 50 per cent.

Long range planning manager James Moore laid out several recommendations staff is proposing to pursue including a shift away from tradition single detached and apartment housing to different forms of housing, a need to strengthen partnerships with senior levels of government and to encourage universal and adaptable housing designs.

The mayor also echoed remarks made by Coun. Gail Given that the practice of flipping homes is one avenue that needs to be addressed.

It's helping to drive house prices up, he said.

"This is not something city council is going to solve all on its own. It's going to require several different partners and different agencies and all levels of government working together."

Urban planning is another avenue the city can use to address the housing crunch.

"If we can house 10 more people instead of five more cars, should we consider that. If you were to take all of the development permits we have approved over the last while, and added one, two or five more units, would that make a difference.

"It may be small, but you have to chip away at it where you can."

The city is also asking for your opinion on the housing crunch.

An online survey is also available for residents who wish to provide their input on the state of housing today, and in the future.

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