Affordable housing is atop many minds in Campbell River right now.
Families, senior citizens, young adults, seasonal employees, college students, second homeowners, right down to those who are most vulnerable, homelessness and a lack of affordable housing affects all populations and there is a need for a variety of housing types and prices to suit our diverse population, according to Libby King of the Strathcona Community Health Network (SCHN).
She has been looking at possible solutions for a couple of years now, and the SCHN has recently partnered up with the Coalition to End Homelessness to open up the discussion with the community in an initiative called “Affordable Housing Benefits Everyone.”
As part of that project, the Campbell River community is being invited to share their ideas, thoughts and concerns about housing by leaving comments on the Housing Ideas Walls going up throughout Campbell River, attending an interactive engagement event on May 23, and learning more about housing in our community.
“We have to change the way we’re looking at housing,” King says. “This is a chance for local people to look at local solutions and where they want to see housing go.”
That dialogue also needs an education component, King says, so part of what they’re doing is filling people in on what kinds of housing development has taken place elsewhere and asking how it could fit into the market here, if at all.
“This is mainly about creating a dialogue and increasing the community’s understanding of the housing situations so that we can all make better decisions. We haven’t had to deal with this stuff until pretty recently. We had a vacancy rate of somewhere around eight per cent for many, many years, so we haven’t needed to know about this stuff.”
It’s not that people don’t know there’s a problem, King says. It’s more that they haven’t needed to really think about housing in a holistic way.
“They haven’t been forced to think, for example, about what is a carriage house? What is row housing? We don’t have a lot of that in Campbell River, so people may not have been exposed to these ideas and what those types of housing options can do for a community,” King says. “They certainly haven’t had the conversations about whether it’s something they want or if it could be one of the solutions that should be looked at. Maybe it’s not. Maybe it’s worked somewhere else, but there’s a reason it wouldn’t fly in Campbell River. That’s the kind of thing we want to explore.”
The drop-in conversation event next Thursday runs from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Campbell River Seniors’ Centre, 1414 Ironwood (next to Thrifty Foods). This will be an interactive event with guided stations for people to learn about different housing types, and to express their thoughts, concerns, suggestions, and ask questions. Participants can also join a hosted table conversation to discuss their thoughts with others and respond to a series of questions to guide conversation.
But they don’t have to attend that event to have their voices heard, King says.
From May 17 to 31, several large “Housing Ideas Walls” will be posted at locations around Campbell River including the Library, Sportsplex, and at City Hall. Community members are invited to contribute their ideas to these walls which encourage thinking about the types of housing they’ve lived in at different phases of their life, what housing they currently reside in, the kind of housing needed in the future, as well as what they feel is missing.
At the end of the campaign, King and her partners will summarize what was heard and provide a set of recommendations on next steps to all levels of government so, as a community, they can better advocate for affordable housing in the region.
“Every community needs to have different solutions,” King says. “What works in one community isn’t necessarily going to work in another one, so every community needs to look at their local barriers and come up with local solutions.”