Strathcona Community Health Network Coordinator Libby King, here speaking with Coun. Ron Kerr, says recent report finds fewer housing options for most vulnerable. File photo by Mike Davies/Campbell River Mirror

Housing in Campbell River is less accessible, assessment report finds

Those most vulnerable have the fewest options when it comes to housing

Campbell River has seen a housing crisis in recent years, according to a new regional assessment of housing needs.

Among the many findings from the Strathcona Community Health Network (SCHN) report for the region is that the market has recovered since 2015 after a slump for several years to the point where housing is becoming more expensive and harder to find.

“The report shows that in Campbell River, single-parent families and individuals living alone face the most significant affordability challenges,” Libby King, coordinator for the SCHN, said in a news release.

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This has followed other ebbs and flows, such as a peak in housing starts in the early 1990s before a dramatic drop-off between 1996 and 2000.

The assessment will help inform planning, especially when it comes to housing especially vulnerable segments of the population.

“We’re basing our planning on the population continuing to rise,” King told the Mirror.

The SCHN is a project within the regional district aimed at improving networks and connections to address the social determinants of health, such as housing.

“Housing came up regularly in our community consultations, and that is what made the table of partners that run and set the direction for the health network decide to focus on housing for our first major project,” King said.

Island Health, the Strathcona Regional District and the City of Campbell of River provided the funding for the SCHN needs assessment to give communities a clearer picture of housing needs in order to implement collaborative projects and leverage funding opportunities.

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Overall, across the region prices on single-family detached homes have jumped by 28 per cent the last few years, with most of those surveyed – 82 per cent – seeing significant barriers to home owningship. Prices for single-family units were up and down for several years but started to rise in 2012, jumping especially during the last two years. In 2017, the median price for a house in the city was approaching $400,000.

Things don’t get better for renters, as rent has jumped by 42 per cent in Campbell River over the last 10 years while the vacancy rate has plummeted from seven per cent down to 1.3 per cent.

In all, many people are paying for housing. Within the city, 3,190 households are paying 30 per cent or more of gross income for shelter, with another 290 in Area D of the Strathcona Regional District (SRD), which lies south of the city, paying that proportion. As well, the study found there are 350 households in Campbell River and Area D live in unsuitable housing, with more than 1,000 dwellings in need of repairs.

The study also provides demographic data for communities throughout the Strathcona Regional District, including First Nations communities and all the electoral areas. While there are certain issues that crop up throughout, King said smaller communities to the north and west of Campbell River often find specific challenges around transportation and having access to groceries, in addition to housing.

Part of the process has been to look beyond the numbers at the experiences of people living in the region, such as household size and make-up. The report notes that some people are especially vulnerable when it comes to access to housing and have fewer options: seniors, those on low incomes, First Nations people and those with mental health or addictions issues.

As well, it found 79 people reporting as homeless in Campbell River last year, though it states the actual figure is probably higher.

It highlights key themes for Campbell River and the surrounding area, such as wages falling behind housing costs, the persistence of discrimination and concerns about the quality of the housing that is available.

While housing numbers had gone up and down in the past, the report assumes the region, which has a population of 44,671 in 2016, is expected to grow to 50,000 by 2030.

“Regionally, most of that growth will likely be concentrated in and around Campbell River,” King said.

Some of the housing crisis is linked to what is happening in the Lower Mainland and the southern part of Vancouver Island, though the effects are not spread evenly throughout the region.

“In Campbell River, we’re certainly feeling it,” King said.

The report uses a variety of data from Statistics Canada, BC Stats, BC Housing Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and other agencies as well as from online rental postings, key informant interviews and an online survey of almost 600 residents.

The plan now is to take the information from the assessment to help determine a housing strategy for the next five years. King is currently working on the scope for the next phase, adding that this will look different for different communities in the region.