Houston housing needs surveyed

Results to aid District of Houston planning

Researchers connected to the University of Northern B.C. (UNBC) have been in the area interviewing residents about the availability and suitability of housing.

In conjunction with the District of Houston, the goal of interviews by the Community Development Institute is to assemble a demographic and housing profile of the community so that the District can better make policy decisions encouraging housing that will meet the ongoing needs of locals.

This continues a District housing initiative which includes sharing a community planner with the Village of Telkwa.

The new staffer “will be reviewing our development bylaw and other regulations to ensure that the goals and objectives of the bylaws are being achieved and without creating unnecessary barriers to housing development,” explained District of Houston chief administrative officer Gerald Pinchbeck earlier this year.

“As well, they will be available to assist with any development proposals the district may receive and provide assistance to the district in planning for future market and non-market housing development.”

This new position follows on a recent requirement that a local government’s official community plan examine housing and housing needs.

Aside from interviews, the Community Development Institute will review past housing documents, assemble population and housing market profiles and hold a gathering to discuss its draft findings leading to a final report.

Those interviewed were asked 17 questions relating to the availability of rental housing and options for owned housing whether it be of a size for families or smaller accommodation including condominiums.

Opinions on the condition, quality and design of both rental and owned accommodation were also sought.

And interviewees were asked whether existing housing is close to required services or amenities.

Opinions were further gathered regarding the current suitability of housing for individuals, seniors, families and whether the supply is adequate in the years ahead.

“We are interviewing a wide range of people and organizations in order to gain insights and perspectives around current and future housing needs across a wide range of incomes, ages and families/households,” explained institute official Marleen Morris.

As of early last week 34 interviews involving 42 people had already been held.

“In most communities, more than 50 per cent of the housing stock was built before 1980,” Morris added of the institute’s findings from approximately 25 housing studies in the north over the years.

“Housing built pre-1980 is not as energy efficient as housing built after 1980. It is, therefore, more costly to heat. It is also housing stock that is in need of more repair. Both of these factors increase housing costs, impacting housing affordability.”

At the same time, Morris said there’s a mis-match in that while the number of one and two person households in the north is increasing, the majority of the housing stock is three or four bedroom houses.

“People who are looking for smaller places are having difficulty finding them. This means that some people are living in, and paying for, units that are too big for household, which again has an impact on affordability,”” she added.

The institute was formed 15 years ago, specializing in socio-economic and demographic research throughout the north.

Its findings are often relied upon by local and other governments in determining infrastructure requirements connected to the well-being of northern communities.

he work will be looking at both short and long term housing projections and needs with an eye to affordability.