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Vanderhoof committee seeks regional input on housing shortage

Housing committee meetings are no longer being recorded due to high public interest, says district official
Housing shortage in Vanderhoof is affecting economic development. (File photo)

The District of Vanderhoof is looking to solve a housing shortage problem that officials say is hurting economic growth in the region. The district is seeking input from other northern B.C. municipalities to find solutions to those common challenges, and increase growth.

“We haven’t seen an increase in development in decades,” District Deputy Corporate Officer Ethan Fredeen said. “It’s been a consistent problem within the District of Vanderhoof.”

Fredeen said the committee decided not to record meetings any longer due to high public interest and provided draft minutes to the Omineca Express.

“We actually had a high amount of interest at one of our earlier committee meetings. So much so that we were expecting a higher amount of people attending than we were allowed to have in our council chambers.”

“We actually recorded it and put it on our website, but it was the committee’s wish not to do that — as they want to make sure that they just have very interested parties in council chambers, and so that they can talk more freely.”

Fredeen pointed to record development in the District of Fraser-Fort George and increased development in Smithers and Quesnel. He said the committee wants to understand the difference between Vanderhoof and other communities to gain insight into why those other municipalities have higher rates of development.

City of Quesnel director of development services Tanya Turner gave her feedback at the most recent committee meeting on Jan. 19.

Turner stressed the need to build confidence with developers and the need for there to be a return on investment. She said housing development can become “politicized” — and that lower mainland developers currently “will not come to any northern community.”

The committee found common challenges between Quesnel and Vanderhoof, including an escalation in the cost of development and a reduction in provincial funding due to natural disasters over the past two years.

Turner advised creating development incentives within the district — pointing to a development cost break for interested parties wanting to develop multi-family units.

Turner also recommended maintaining space for one large industry developing within an area, as subdivisions meant to encourage economic diversification didn’t work for Quesnel.

“When we discussed with them we realized that they were seeing common challenges amongst the communities,” Fredeen said.

A District of Vanderhoof housing needs assessment released in August of 2020 noted the key areas of need included housing availability, affordable housing, rental housing, short-term rentals, special needs, disability and seniors housing, housing for families and shelter for individuals experiencing homelessness and housing for individuals at risk of homelessness.

With a file from Aman Parhar

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