Housing and health continue to remain a focus for the District of Houston as outlined in its newly-approved strategic plan to guide its activities from now until 2026.
Using an already-completed needs assessment which indicated the community needs a full range of housing, the plan calls for the district to look for non-profit agencies to work with the provincial BC Housing agency to build affordable housing.
And it sets next year as the date to improve bylaws to enforce requirements to repair unsafe rentals and those in a state of disrepair.
Bylaws would introduce penalties for landlords unwilling to do the work and also set out clear standards defining what is safe and what is acceptable.
Annual rental inspections would also be carried out in conjunction with the issuing of business licences for those with rental properties.
As for encouraging the construction of new housing, the District would work toward identifying land suitable for subdivision development.
The planned housing measures stem from a 2020 report which noted the troublesome state of rental housing in the community.
A lengthy list of deficiencies was provided in the report, including structural issues, electrical issues, aging plumbing, leaking roof and toilets, mould and asbestos, poor insulation, inefficient heating, pests and inadequate windows and locks.
That same report also indicated there is a lack of new housing to attract and retain professionals, a lack of quality rental housing and a lack of smaller homes for people who are downsizing from larger family homes.
The Northern Health Authority remains a District priority in its bid to increase health care services within the community.
At the moment the Houston Health Centre provides one registered nurse from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week and a nurse practitioner from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. three days a week.
The District is advocating for 24-hour emergency medical coverage.
It also has identified specific goals such as making the community a base for medical students who need to complete a period of family medicine study.
And Houston could be home to optometrists, dietitians and other specialized health care services, the District states.
Other specific health care measures include reducing the impact of wood stoves so as to improve air quality and looking for ways to reduce carbon emissions from local industry.
In addition to housing and health improvements for its citizens, the District sees reconciliation with the Indigenous community as a key part of its strategic plan.
That takes in building relationships with local First Nations, addressing housing gaps as they relate to Indigenous people and advocating for an increase in services for Indigenous people.
Council members and staffers have already undergone cultural awareness training and that is set to continue.
When it comes to the local economy and the local workforce, the District’s efforts to diversify the economy are to continue.
“Over the term of this plan the District will invest in efforts to diversify the local economy and market the community to potential residents, visitors and investors,” reads a sentence in the strategic plan.
Within that broad category is identifying options for local job training, increasing the number of small businesses and looking at ways to develop commercial space.
As it is, the District already provides for property tax exemptions tied to residential, commercial and residential property improvements.
And with Phase 2 of the long-term downtown improvement plan now underway, which is the below ground and above ground work along 10th Street, the District is to start planning for Phase 3, improvements to 11th Street.
An age-friendly sidewalk the full length of the south side of Hwy16 as it runs adjacent to the downtown core is also a focus of the District and it will pursue the province to find the money for the project.
Continued beautification and other upgrades along Hwy. 16 also factor into the strategic plan as does an alternate route for pedestrian traffic on Mountain View Drive.