With the ongoing housing crisis in the district, advocates suggest looking at different solutions to meet the needs of people in and around Vanderhoof.
Tyrell Arnold, executive director of Nechako Valley Community Services, said the district could change zoning and bylaws to make suites more available to those needing housing.
“A person could divide a two-storey home,” he said, “So they could rent out the basement as a suite and then the main floor, which provides more housing. So that is one option.”
The district received $2.8 million from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing in Nov. 2018, to build 28 homes for seniors and $600,000, to build six homes to house a mix of seniors and families. The new housing project is in it’s pre-development phase, where the funding has been announced, but a final proposal is yet to be submitted to BC Housing. Arnold said this project is already receiving calls from seniors who want to put their names on the list.
At this moment, there are 20 seniors on the wait-list at Riverside Place Senior’s Residence who need alternate housing.
“So that is quite the list of seniors that need alternate housing. Either it is just not suitable at their homes anymore or their health is deteriorated so they can’t take care of themselves fully,” said Arnold.
Meanwhile, another avenue that could work is building en suites on properties, he said. “There has been talk that if contractors are interested or people building, if they build en suites and if there is an appetite for it from the district to allow en suites, or a separate cottage or something on the property.”
Vanderhoof Mayor Gerry Thiessen said he is very excited about the new housing units and hopes that once seniors move out of their homes, it will allow for more renting space for others looking to move to the district.
“What my hope is that once we provide more seniors housing in Vanderhoof that the seniors will move out of their houses and find smaller apartments that they are looking for, which will allow for more space for people to come in. The second thing is we always hope we will see 10 new houses built by people in town,” he said.
Due to the low population density of Vanderhoof, there is not a huge market for speculation houses, said Thiessen.
However, another issue seniors face in the community is the lack of a community space that can help them transition out of hospitals and into their homes.
“…Quite often seniors who end up in the hospital for one reason or another end up staying longer than they need and there is not adequate space or proper space for them in the community where they can access support and not be in a large home or out in the country[side],” said Arnold.
The two housing projects are proposed to start in spring, but it will depend on the final approval from B.C. Housing, he said. The three-storey seniors housing complex is proposed to be built on the corner of Church Ave. and Victoria St. and is in collaboration with Northern Health and BC Housing. The design for the main floor consists of a common living area with 8 bedrooms and bathrooms for dementia patients. “It is a pilot project we are developing with [Northern Health] for seniors with dementia,” said Arnold.
The second and third floor have 10, one-bedroom units each for unassisted senior’s living units.
“It’s something that has been talked about and has been in the works for many many years and some are actually thrilled to see it happening now and I know there is a lot of seniors that are quite excited to see it as well,” he said.