Region gets C- on housing

The housing crunch and a lack of well paying jobs are the top anxieties for residents in the South Okanagan and Similkameen, according to the fourth annual Vital Signs study released this week.

More than 1,000 people participated in the region-wide survey covering 10 issues;  Learning, Health & Wellness, Culture, Belonging & Leadership, Safety, Environment, Getting Started, Housing, Living Standards, and People and Work.

“The report gives us a good indication of where are our communities are at and where they are headed,” said Aaron McRann, executive director of the Community Foundation of the South Okanagan Similkameen.

“The report also helps CFSOS decide how to distribute grants. For example, if an issue area gets a poor grade, the foundation may look at creative ways to provide more support in that area. We also hope to educate and inspire citizens to tackle an area of interest to them, personally,” added McRann.

The “Housing” and “People and Work” categories were the only two that came in at a sub “B” grade, with a C- and C+ respectively.

The report highlighted a number of bleak housing stats, including a zero per cent rental vacancy rate in Summerland in 2017, down from 2.2 per cent in 2016. The rental vacancy rate for all of B.C. was 1.3 per cent in 2017 and 0.9 per cent in Penticton.

A staggering 50 per cent of households in Penticton spend more than 30 per cent of their income on rent, a threshold considered the upper limit of affordability. Forty-nine per cent of Summerland renters do the same, along with 47 per cent in Keremeos, 41 per cent in Oliver and 39 per cent in Osoyoos.

“This is the biggest sector for our community to improve. Once those vulnerable members of our community can afford housing, other services and programs will address their needs,” the report states. “When people are not adequately housed, either facing homelessness or paying more than they can afford for housing, other areas of health and wellness are not able to be prioritized.”

On “People and Work” the report highlighted high unemployment rates in the Similkameen; Hedley 24 per cent, Keremeos 17 per cent, Cawston 16 per cent compared to Penticton’s 9 per cent or 7 per cent for all of B.C.

The full Vital Signs report can be read here.

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