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Municipality seeks consultant to plan for affordable employee housing

 | October 20, 2021
Photo: Affordable employee housing is a need in Sun Peaks. File photo.

The Sun Peaks Housing Authority’s (SPHA) board supported a request by Sun Peaks Mountain Resort Municipality (SPMRM) to seek an experienced housing consultant to create an affordable employee non-market housing strategy at the organization’s AGM on Oct. 19.

Shane Bourke, SPMRM’s chief administrative officer, said employee housing has consistently been identified as a need in Sun Peaks and the next step is to hire a project-based consultant. 

“We think there’s a benefit in tapping into consultants who’ve had experience in this area, and maybe could access many different people through a consultant group, as opposed to hiring one person to do this work,” said Bourke in an interview with SPIN. “This is a way that we can utilize the expertise and knowledge of people who’ve already done models like ours.

The SPHA was established in 2018, and was in the planning stages in late 2016. While no new housing development units have yet been purchased or earmarked for the organization, the municipality has made progress regarding a parcel of land in the west end of the village.  

Parcel 69 is currently undeveloped Crown land near the entrance to Sun Peaks. A year ago SPHA applied to transfer the land for use as an affordable housing site. Recently, the province provided approval to begin an archaeological survey in consultation with the surrounding First Nations bands.

Bourke said they are hoping to complete the survey before the snow falls, but there is no timeline on when the transfer of land will take place or when construction will begin.

“How to fund future construction is something we are seeking advice from the consultants on,” he said.

The goal is to provide more affordable options for both rentals and home ownership. They are looking for a consultant who understands the unique challenges presented by being a resort municipality, such as only having a fixed amount of land and housing prices increasing faster than the average community. 

“As more people from the Lower Mainland are moving permanently to Sun Peaks that has affected our employee housing market,” Bourke said. “Places like Whistler and Tofino—there’s some places that have tourism economies that are also looking at similar challenges as us.”

The strategy submitted by the consultants should include recommendations for a five-year period, outlining the financial plan and actions required to achieve the objectives.

Bourke said they have spoken with a number of consultants who have expertise in this area and have expressed interest. They are expecting proposals by the end of November and are hoping to make a selection by the end of the year so they can begin to take action in 2022.

The municipality is open to a wide range of suggestions. They said they intend to evaluate proposals based on their overall value, including non-financial and qualitative values.

“This is a big and important task for the municipality and for the employees that live here and want to live here,” said Bourke. “We’re trying to make sure that we’re keeping progress and with the ultimate goal of increasing employee housing options. This is one more step in the process.”

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