Report: Housing unaffordable for many renters in Okanagan

Renters being squeezed

The population is growing, housing is unaffordable, many B.C. residents are living in poverty while Indigenous communities are experiencing ongoing systemic racism.

The United Way Southern Interior BC has released the Central Okanagan Community Wellness Analysis, taking a look at poverty and wellness within communities in the Central Okanagan.

The Central Okanagan Poverty Reduction Committee undertook the project at the start of 2019, addressing the lack of community-specific information surrounding poverty.

Profiled areas in the analysis include the City of Kelowna, City of West Kelowna, District of Lake Country, District of Peachland, Okanagan Indian Band and Westbank First Nation.

Highlights include a 42.7 per cent increase in population growth from 1996-2016 in the Central Okanagan. With this growth, affordability remains an issue. Housing is only considered affordable when the household spends no more than 30 per cent of their total income towards it.

If a renter or owner is spending more than 30 per cent of their income on housing, or if the home is too small or in disrepair, that places them in the 'core housing need.'

Currently in Kelowna, 47 per cent of renter households are in the core housing need. Peachland surpasses this with 48.5 per cent of renters, West Kelowna is at 41.90 per cent and Lake Country is at 39 per cent. There is no available data for the Okanagan Indian Band or Westbank First Nation.

It is estimated that 557,000 people are living in poverty in B.C., and 99,000 of these people are children. This is the highest rate of child poverty in the nation.

“Poverty is a critical social issue in the Central Okanagan, impacting children, families, seniors and individuals in every community in the region,” says Reanne Holden-Amadio, Community Investment Manager at United Way Southern Interior BC, a partner agency for the analysis project. “The Community Wellness Analysis provides important insights into wellness and poverty in Central Okanagan communities and provides a solid foundation for the development of a Central Okanagan wellness and poverty strategy.”

Indigenous cultures have been suppressed by government policies resulting in negative impacts on household wealth, health and overall wellbeing. The ongoing systemic racism has led to housing difficulties, strikes against opportunities and judgement by communities, the report says.

The Westbank First Nation population grew by 28 per cent between 2011 and 2016. However, the Okanagan Indian Band experienced a significant decline of 13.2 per cent during this timeframe. 

Median household incomes are significantly lower in the Westbank First Nation (Tsinstikeptum IR9) compared to the Central Okanagan as a whole, with a median household income of $53,742 compared to Central Okanagan's $71,127. The Okanagan Indian Band is even lower with a median household income of $50,987. 

For the Westbank First Nation (Tsinstikeptum IR10), their median household income sits at $77,227.

Click here to read the full report. 

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