The issue of housing, particularly social housing, cold weather shelters or transition homes has been widely discussed in Vanderhoof over the past few weeks. The petition to Mayor Gerry Thiessen regarding support for a safe, secure and accessible homeless shelter in the community has received 277 signatures on change.org.
The Express spoke with the mayor regarding – issues of housing development in Vanderhoof; homeless shelter and whether council is working towards attracting new developers.
Thiessen said as real estate is as affordable as it is in Vanderhoof, the opportunity to recoup cost after developing a house doesn’t exist in the community at this point.
“We are looking at different options for housing. We have had lane-way housing approved, cottage, carriage homes that we are trying to encourage. Something that will bring more density downtown, but do it in a thoughtful format.”
The mayor also said people should expect prices of homes in Vanderhoof to rise over the next couple of years. “We know the days of purchasing a home on the river for under $300,000 are limited. So we know at some point the prices in Vanderhoof will be similar like prices in Smithers and other towns that size.”
In terms of the homeless shelter petition, Thiessen said he believes a shelter is only a band-aid solution.
“Now because the homeless issue has arisen in Vanderhoof, I think we have done a lot of work to understand what the issue is; is there a need for a homeless shelter or is there a need for a transitional shelter; or is there a need for affordable housing?”
He said in his discussions with council, he has heard that a shelter won’t be a good long term solution.
“We are hoping to meet with not only the non-profits we have started talking to, but to the provincial government and hear from them what our opportunity is to address this issue and not provide just a band-aid solution,” he added.
He said he has heard that the homelessness situation is “bad” in Vanderhoof.
In terms of attracting developers to build social housing or other housing stock, Thiessen said council’s approach is to first work with developers in town.
On being asked why local developers weren’t building stock then, Thiessen said, builders haven’t received a good return on investment.
“We see the day coming very soon where local developers say it is worth it for me to build four units in our community. We do not only have the tax bylaw that we put in, we also have a grant through NDIT which if we get someone to build 4 units, there is a significant grant that can go towards that.”