At its meeting on Feb. 10, Clinton council heard the final report on a housing needs assessment that was carried out by M’akola Development Services and Turner Drake & Partners Ltd. for the Thompson-Nicola Regional District. In addition to Clinton, communities participating in the study were the Village of Cache Creek, the City of Merritt, the districts of Logan Lake and Clearwater, Sun Peaks Resort Municipality, and nine of the TNRD’s 10 electoral areas (municipalities including Ashcroft, Barriere, and Chase have done their own assessments).
Sandy Mackay of M’akola Development presented the assessment’s findings. Each local government will decide how to act on the information in the report to support their communities, but he said that the region-wide approach allowed them to take a broader look at housing needs, which do not stop at a municipality’s borders.
Mackay said that Clinton was starting from a relatively advantageous position, noting that other communities they work in are in a “housing crisis” situation. Clinton, he said, is not there yet, with relatively affordable housing and time to address various issues. However, he added that conditions are worsening for renters, with rental housing a challenge, and said that the village has an aging population. “This represents a challenge, as they need different types of housing and supports.”
Housing markets are expanding, with possible pressure as people from the Lower Mainland and Kamloops continue to move out in greater numbers. People are looking for second properties, or to move away from more crowded areas.
The population increased by 14 per cent between 2006 and 2016, but models indicate there will be a slight decline over the next decade. However, housing demand is expected to increase by 23 per cent. Fewer people are living in each home as people age and family structure changes, often meaning one family needs two homes.
In 2006, 24 per cent of Clinton’s population was aged 65 and older. That had increased to 29 per cent in 2016 (all figures taken from the federal census), and by 2026 it is anticipated that 41 per cent of Clinton’s population will be over the age of 65. “This has huge implications for the types of housing you need in order to support those folks.”
Mackay said many of the seniors they heard from in the course of preparing the report spoke of their worry about not being able to maintain larger properties, and not being able to downsize due to cost and the unavailability of suitable housing. The report contained comments about the number of single people living in large homes, and the lack of rental housing having implications for employers.
Creating more suitable, and more rental, housing would not only help people looking for housing, it would free up larger homes for families to move into. Prioritizing multi-unit housing was described as a way forward.
Seniors are looking for smaller, more manageable units but not necessarily ones with fewer bedrooms. “They really like that second or third bedroom for either activity space or so they can have family come to visit.” They do not want to mow a large lawn, but they do want a small outdoor space for recreation and gardening.
A big piece of the picture, said Mackay, was renters. Across the region rates of rentalship are rising across all age groups, particularly in the under 20 and age 30 to 55 categories, indicating more young people and more people with young families renting. At the same time, incomes are not necessarily rising to keep pace with inflation, particularly for renters: their household income decreased by 12 per cent in recent years, while home owners’ income rose by 10 per cent. “Renters in your community are struggling with availability and cost.”
The report noted that many employers said housing directly affects their ability to attract and retain workers in key industries. As with seniors, this indicates a need for more dedicated, affordable, and appropriate rental options. Construction of more housing dedicated to rental units, expanding infill and suite permissions to allow people to put suites in their basements or gardens, and working with landlords to ensure rental housing remains affordable, were all suggested as ways to help the situation.
The report notes that houses in Clinton have become more expensive. Median house prices have been rising steadily: they are up about 24 per cent over the last 10 years, and have almost doubled since a low in 2013. It means that those looking to move from renting to owning are finding it more difficult to enter the market. Some 34 per cent of Clinton respondents said that their houses were unaffordable, a figure that jumps to 65 per cent for renters, some of whom were also worried that their rental unit would disappear.
The final report will be available for viewing on the village’s website at https://village.clinton.bc.ca/.