The preliminary findings of a housing needs study, conducted by the University of Northern British Columbia at the request of the District of Houston, were presented to district council and staff last week. (Black Press file photo)

The preliminary findings of a housing needs study, conducted by the University of Northern British Columbia at the request of the District of Houston, were presented to district council and staff last week. (Black Press file photo)

Houston lacks homes to attract new professionals: study

Preliminary findings of UNBC study released

Houston is lacking modern homes, new subdivisions and large lots to attract new families and professionals to live in the area, according to a new study.

The preliminary findings of the study, conducted by the University of Northern British Columbia’s Community Development Institute at the request of the District of Houston, were presented to district council and staff last week.

The findings, which highlight issues, barriers and priorities that are shaping local housing, aim to inform policy decisions that will meet the ongoing needs of locals.

READ MORE: Houston housing needs surveyed

Some of the issues identified during the 40 interviews with 50 stakeholders include:

– Lack of homes to rent;

– Lack of high quality rentals and homes;

– Needed maintenance for rental units;

– Lack of larger five-acre lots to attract workers and their families;

– Lack of smaller homes for older residents, couples or individuals;

– Lack of seniors’ housing; and

– Lack of resources to support vulnerable residents seeking affordable housing.

The study also identified barriers to housing development, including high construction costs, lack of trades contractors and private land being held as investment without development.

To address the local housing issues, the study identified priorities such as strengthening relationships with landlords and BC Housing, renewing regulatory tools and holding workshops on how to maintain rental units.

But since the local housing market is also influenced by conditions in nearby centres and Aboriginal communities, the study points out that action plans need to be undertaken at a regional level.

Community Development Institute official Marleen Morris said earlier this year that in most communities in northern B.C., more than 50 per cent of the housing stock was built before 1980.

“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,” said Morris. “Both of these factors increase housing costs, impacting housing affordability.”

Aside from interviews, conducted between September and October, the institute has also reviewed past housing documents and population and housing market profiles.

Morris said said the final report, which will incorporate community feedback, is expected to be completed in late February or early March.

The study continues a district housing initiative which includes sharing a community planner with the Village of Telkwa.

The new staffer has been reviewing Houston’s development bylaw and other regulations to ensure that its goals are being achieved without creating unnecessary barriers to development, said the district’s chief administrative officer Gerald Pinchbeck earlier this year.

— With files from Rod Link