This is part three of a three-part series addressing the main topics community members said they want municipal candidates to be clear on this election season — Infrastructure, affordable housing and balancing the needs of tourists and residents.
Housing is an issue in many towns, but Sun Peaks Mountain Resort Municipality (SPMRM) faces additional challenges as a resort community.
The survey SPIN sent out last month found almost 60 per cent of respondents mentioned housing as an area they wanted candidates to be clear on — whether concerning staff housing, affordable housing or the availability of housing in the community.
While the municipality isn’t the only government body with a say in housing, council has its fair share of influence. Most recently, it endorsed a new employee housing development alongside Sun Peaks Resort LLP (SPR) and a private developer.
SPIN asked all nine candidates what their plan would be for improving the housing situation in Sun Peaks if elected.
Kimmel said the key is to find a balance between different types of housing in the community.
“We need tourist accommodation, and we need residential for families here, and we also need employee and affordable housing. I think that there is no magic bullet for everything,” Kimmel said.
“Some of the future plans in the Official Community Plan that are designating specific neighbourhoods either RS-1 or RS-1A, I think that’s important because then people will have an understanding of what they’re purchasing … I think that [temporary use permits] have their place, it’s really about finding a balance that enhances the positive aspects.”
Kimmel said looking to other ski resort communities could be helpful in understanding housing options. She mentioned Revelstoke, which has used partnerships to create one-bedroom homes at an affordable price.
“There’s just a lot to look at,” she said. “I know that there’s employee housing on the horizon already in play … It’s hard to be patient when the need is so great, but I think we have to understand that it is happening.”
Kimmel can be reached by email at [email protected].
Oetter said housing is one of her key priorities and that the non-market housing report SPMRM completed earlier this year offered great suggestions.
“A big part is really that cooperation. I think the reality is we’re a small municipality, so no one group can really bear the cost,” Oetter said.
“If we’re going to try and get some grant money, often you have to have more than one party because then if we’re applying to the federal government, for instance, they want to see that there’s commitment.”
Oetter said council still needs to brainstorm other ways to open up availability of housing in the short term. When it comes to employee housing that directly benefits SPR, she said it’s the resort’s responsibility to create those developments.
“We need to find ways to make that burden be as equitable as possible, so that in the long term, we can thrive,” she said.
“At some point the resort will be at build out and there will be no more land available to purchase … We want to make sure that going forward from here, we’re making sure that new developments include sufficient employee housing and sufficient affordable housing.”
Oetter can be reached by email at [email protected].
Hrycan sits on the Sun Peaks Housing Authority, which has conducted studies to understand what housing options are possible.
“There isn’t a development interest out there that’s simply going to create affordable housing,” Hrycan said.
“The municipality has to play some financial role, and that’s a challenge because we’re not at that point where we can easily raise taxes to help make that happen. So I think we are going to have to look at what I would call ‘creative partnerships’ with the development sector to see if we can start to make some small gains.”
Hrycan said the municipality could provide development cost charges and try to acquire Crown land at a cheaper rate to enable the developer. He added he has experience forming creative partnerships to create affordable housing during his time with the City of Kamloops.
“Whistler is a classic example of somebody that is doing really great things with affordable housing, but what most people don’t understand was before they even formed their housing authority, they had over $5 million in the bank,” he said. “That’s why I think it’s important that we don’t lose sight of the bigger vision, but we start small and slowly get some incremental gains.”
O’Toole said there isn’t one simple solution to solving the housing crisis, but the current council has already got the ball moving with facilitating employee housing.
“To start affordable housing on our own is going to be a pretty taxing process,” O’Toole said.
“For us to wait until such time as we would have the funds ourselves would potentially mean that those projects could be postponed for another two or three years before they get jump started. Going the route of a private public partnership relationship will allow us to move ahead.”
O’Toole said the key is continuing non-market housing under the Sun Peaks Housing Authority. He said council will also need to find ways to encourage private citizens to build suites in homes that are designated for long term rental, as well as encourage developers to set aside a certain percentage of units for market housing.
“[Whistler and Tofino] are two communities with some of the similar demographics and similar challenges that we have,” he said.
“The company that we hired this past year to help us with the consultation and the process for affordable housing played a key role in starting both of those housing authorities … They’ve seen what works and seen what doesn’t work, so we’re not looking to reinvent the wheel.”
Eidher said creating housing should be at the top of the priority list, but isn’t a one person job.
“I think it’s a crucial problem that we need to find a solution to,” Eidher said. “But I think it involves collaborating with the rest of the council members and not only listening, but really hearing the different sides of the issue. I think that it’s a really complicated issue.”
Eidher said there should be limited short term rentals and recent policy amendments by the current council are a step in the right direction.
“The solution involves the whole community being on board to resolving it,” she said. “I think we need to actually sit and analyze the problem as a team, and listen and hear and reflect on what’s being said to us from the community.”
Richins said the community is unique because SPR plays a big role in housing.
“I do see the interest and success in a public private partnership approach to housing,” Richins said. “I know that they’re actually talking about different blocks of land at this point to actually try to work toward that … Then looking toward the future in terms of other parts of the eastern part of the resort area is trying to be innovative in best practice in how affordable housing happens.”
Richins said he’s not sure how the municipality would facilitate it, but he would also like to see the resort dedicate some of its new developments to long-term housing as opposed to mostly tourist accommodation.
He added although housing affordability is an issue in most communities, Sun Peaks can look to other places for ideas.
“When you look at Whistler, they have some other aspects outside of the Whistler area where people are finding a little bit more affordable housing,” he said. “Whether this would work or not, we have other parts a little bit further away from Sun Peaks that we might be able to initiate ideas in development.”
Dye said housing was an issue when he moved to Sun Peaks over 20 years ago and there’s no simple solution.
“I don’t believe the municipality has the funds or the ability to take on these projects by themselves. We need to work with Sun Peaks Resort Corporation and private companies to help make this housing available to people,” Dye said.
“I know the community housing is coming into play … But it’s at least two years down the road so we have to look at other options to help make us get through that time period.”
Dye said he also urges everyone to rent out empty suites. He said he knows some community members are nervous about renting to long-term tenants, and if that’s the case, recommends leasing the property to a specific business for their employees.
“The businesses of Sun Peaks are going to have to put some effort into it. The resort corporation has to put a focus on it. The municipality is going to have to look at it,” he said. “We’re all going to have to come together and look at creative ways to come up with solutions.”
Dye can be reached by email at [email protected].
Sorge said housing is one of his main areas of focus, but he recognizes the municipality can’t directly build housing with the current budget.
“What we can do is try and facilitate as much more affordable housing being built as possible,” Sorge said.
“A lot of the Crown land that we have is actually accessible to the resort … we can work with the resort and the provincial government to try and access some of that land to provide it at lower cost to ensure that more affordable housing developments are made.”
Sorge said the municipality could also look at changing policies to make the construction of affordable housing easier than other developments. Additionally, he suggested looking at similar municipalities to explore different housing models.
“Whistler does this, some places in the Lower Mainland do this, where they have basically co-op housing,” he said. “The only folks that would have access to it would be folks looking to work up here or lower income [residents]. And there’s no real profit incentive in holding on to it.”
Ashton said the current council is moving in the right direction with housing.
“As far as any new Stratas and stuff that come forward, they should all allow rentals in them,” Ashton said.
“I don’t like the idea of forcing landowners to turn them into rentals, but I think as far as just the allowance of having long-term rentals in both private residences and in all new Strata developments, I think that’s very important going forward.”
When it comes to housing for seasonal employees, Ashton said the responsibility should fall on the resort to create those developments.
Voting day is Oct. 15. For more information on how to vote and who is eligible, read our story here.