There is little doubt that there is a housing dilemma in Campbell River but we are perched on the edge of a larger problem.
We have a financial crisis fomenting in our village. It is occurring because of the ‘switch’ of investment capital from the Agro/extractive and manufacturing to the urbanization sector.
Campbell River is experiencing a building boom. I do not have the most recent numbers but in the 2019 Community Profile, 2018 commercial/industrial permits were issued for about $4 million while residential / auxiliary permits totaled close to $64 million. For the portion of the year 2019 reported, Commercial/industrial permits issued were about $7 million while residential/auxiliary permits were close to $54 million. Vancouver Island Real Estate Board reports that the average home price in Campbell River was around $683,000 in January of this year, up about 30 per cent from the year before. Ignoring the under-employed and homeless like we tend to do, how long will it be until the average person will not be able to afford to own a home in Campbell River?
We are a nature-based village with two of the three major sources of income for the village under siege by changes in societal preferences: our seas and our forests. I think we need to re-invigorate our area with new technology using a more environmentally responsible approach.
Instead of exporting our low-grade and smaller timbers, we could really begin to practice forestry and use them in to produce mass timber products used in making modular housing units. Mass timber is made by joining layers of lumber to create structural parts for buildings that match the strength of more traditional construction – with a series of additional advantages of aiding in the development of a value-added industry and creating new careers within the village for younger residents..
The provincial government has announced its Mass Timber Action Plan as kind of a marketing scheme to modernize the forest industry, create good jobs and support communities by partnering with First Nations, training new workers, modernizing regulations, and profiling mass timber to emerging markets throughout the world. With its established industry base, its college, shuttered pulp and sawmilling facilities, and skilled workforce, I believe the city is ideally situated to capitalize on this marketing scheme but investment capital must again ‘switch’ from urbanization to an industrial base.
We can not wait for a new municipal election in the fall. Now is the time for our city and First Nation leaders to work with industry and the community to create a forest village task force to re-establish Campbell River as home to both a sustainable living space to live but a grand place to work.
William L. Wagner, PhD, Civic Forester