A two-year University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) study, which has resulted in the launch of a new online housing information portal, has found that the housing stock in smaller cities is out of step with population trends.
The portal is the result of a study funded by BC Housing and conducted by the Community Development Institute (CDI) at UNBC which looked at the state of housing in non-metropolitan B.C. which is defined as communities with a population under 100,000.
The study found that in non-metropolitan B.C. the state of housing has become a key constraint on economic and community development.
It points to a number of emerging issues and challenges, looks at the implications of these, and concludes with all call to action on housing issues in non-metropolitan B.C.
CDI Co-Director Marleen Morris, who led the study, found that across multiple sample communities the housing stock is out of step with population trends.
“The data will be of significant interest to local government, planners, developers, builders, and the provincial government,” said Morris.
“We highlight the strong links between housing and economic development potential in non-metropolitan B.C. We need to focus on housing if we want to realize non-metropolitan B.C.’s economic potential.”
Morris and her team found that there has been an increase in one- and two-person households, due to more empty nesters and young people delaying having children and a decrease in four- and more person households.
In the housing stock, there is an undersupply of one- and two-bedroom units and an oversupply of four- and more bedroom units. Seniors looking to downsize and young people looking for a small starter home have trouble finding what they need or want.
Housing stock in many of the sample communities is old, with 57 per cent built before 1981. Furthermore, these homes are not energy efficient and many are in need of major repair. High heating bills and the need for major repairs are having an impact on housing affordability.
The study also found that Tenant financial vulnerability in non-metropolitan B.C. communities is almost as high as in Vancouver. That’s because in non-metropolitan B.C., about 40 per cent of tenants are vulnerable, which means they pay more than 30 percent of their income on rent.
In Vancouver, 43 per cent of tenants are in the same situation and in 18 non-metropolitan communities in the sample, tenant financial vulnerability is about the same or higher than in Vancouver.
Tenants in non-metropolitan B.C. are also living in more vulnerable conditions than tenants in Vancouver as the study found that in 80 per cent of sample communities, the rental housing stock is in worse condition than in Vancouver.
Morris says communities need adequate, affordable rental housing in order to attract young workers, such as teachers, nurses, physicians, and those in the service, retail, and tourism sectors. These young workers are essential to the community and the economy and may not yet have the money to purchase a home.
The CDI’s Housing Information Portal contains detailed data, reports, webinar recordings, conference presentations and articles published in magazines and journals and contains population and housing data for more than 60 communities.