The final versions of two studies undertaken by the Village of Cache Creek — the Seniors Housing Needs Assessment and the Downtown Vision Framework — are now complete, and both reports are available on the Village’s website.
The Village received a grant from the Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) to further explore seniors housing, which was identified as a priority for residents during an Age-Friendly Plan study carried out in 2017/18. A Rural Dividend grant also enabled the Village to complete the Downtown Vision Framework report, which arose from the Business Attraction and Expansion Strategy that was first discussed in 2013.
“It was a real learning experience to go through both,” says Cache Creek CAO Martin Dalsin. “They’re both workable plans which give us some achievable goals. We’re really happy with the results.”
Dalsin adds that the reports will not just sit on a shelf, a feeling echoed by Cache Creek mayor Santo Talarico.
“These are two valuable studies, and I hope they’re not going to gather dust,” says the mayor. “We want to act on as much as we can.”
The studies were carried out by Meraki Community Planning, and Meraki principal/senior planner Maren Luciani says that they were excited to work with the Village on the development of the long term visions and associated goals, policies, and actions.
The Downtown Vision Framework was developed after input from residents, business owners, council, and support agencies. A chief goal was to identify what people defined as the downtown area, and to examine the challenges facing Cache Creek’s downtown and possible solutions.
Talarico says that beautification emerged as a key theme. “We looked at how to address vacant buildings and vacant land, and at how the downtown should look in 10 years, in 20 years.”
The Downtown Vision Framework acknowledges the work that has already been done, and also notes advantages and assets identified during the development of the report, such as the Village’s location, the low cost of living, and the large number of visitors passing through.
However, the report also notes the lack of housing diversity, the challenge in getting tourists to stop in the Village, and the challenge presented by absentee landlords.
Immediate priorities identified in the report include investigating a commercial vacancy tax bylaw; working with Northern Development Initiative Trust to update the Village’s Investment Ready Community Profile; and a review and update of land designations in the Village’s Official Community Plan (OCP) and Zoning Bylaw to expand housing options in, and adjacent to, the downtown area.
“The framework document is a long-range plan that is anticipated to be implemented over the next 10–15 years as funding and other resources are available,” explains Luciani.
“We hope to see it incorporated into the Village’s OCP to give it additional strength.”
Lack of seniors’ housing was one of the top three concerns raised during the Age-Friendly Plan discussions. Luciani says that many rural communities throughout B.C. are experiencing similar issues, such as a lack of housing for those who wish to age in place, lack of accessibility of health care services, and lack of public transportation.
“What we needed was concrete data to back it up to be eligible for project funding through BC Housing and Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC).”
More than 50 seniors from Cache Creek, as well as a few from surrounding areas including Bonaparte Indian Band, took part in either a survey or focus group session, and 16 seniors’ service providers provided input, either via one-on-one interviews or a focus group session.
The results showed the need for a multi-pronged approach to supporting local seniors with their housing needs. Most seniors indicated that they wanted to remain at home as long as possible, showing the need for better accessibility and other upgrades. Many seniors also indicated a strong desire to stay in Cache Creek if they needed to move from their existing homes, but stressed the need for sufficient health care services and transportation in order to stay in Cache Creek.
Many service providers (housing and otherwise) expressed interest in being involved in housing solutions for seniors in and around Cache Creek moving forward. However, partnerships will be key, and external funding will be necessary in order to make this happen.
Using CMHC’s recommended “capture rate” to forecast demand for seniors’ housing facilities in Cache Creek shows that approximately 13 beds of supportive housing would currently be needed to accommodate Cache Creek seniors in need.
However, this does not account for seniors under 75 who may need supportive housing now due to accessibility issues, chronic illness, and other disabilities. It also does not factor in seniors who live in the region, but are outside Cache Creek’s political boundaries.
Cache Creek has a significant proportion of residents aged between 65 and 74 years of age. “If we plan proactively and consider that a percentage of these individuals will require supportive housing in 10 years, the number of beds of supportive housing increases from 13 to 26,” says Luciani. “Again, this doesn’t take into consideration the needs of seniors beyond the political boundaries of Cache Creek.”
A number of recommendations were identified as necessary to move the project forward, including evaluating land for seniors’ housing in the Village; applying for CMHC Seed Funding; meeting with BC Housing with the report; and incorporating VisitAble Housing guidelines into municipal policy documents such as the OCP. Both CMHC and BC Housing have expressed interest based on all of the work that has been done to date with community involvement.
Talarico says that while both reports are very important in determining council’s long-term goals, the needs of seniors are more of a priority at this time than the downtown study.
“It’s all about the financial implications. We’re struggling a bit this year. During our strategic planning meeting in October both studies will be addressed in greater detail.”
He adds, however, that the Village began acting on some concerns raised before the seniors’ study was completed.
“Transit fits in with seniors’ needs, and we’ve already acted on that. We’ve started working on both [reports] in a non-official sense, and we’ll look at what we can do to address both.”
Both reports are on the Village wbesite. The Downtown Vision Framework report can be read at https://bit.ly/2Mg4TW6, while the Seniors Housing Needs Assessment report can be read at https://bit.ly/2KK6Kj2.