A letter from a concern resident prompted Dawson Creek city council to talk about the issue of affordable housing in the City.
“Homelessness has become a serious issue in this community; people on a no fixed income are having a hard time finding a place to live. Rentals need first and last month rent — where can you get the finances when you only get $610.00 per month?” noted Linda Mooney in a letter to council.
“People are turning to crime, and using drugs and alcohol to cope, there is a great deal of anxiety not knowing where you’re going to sleep that night. The shelters are all full, so what’s the plan now?”
Council agreed on the seriousness of the issue.
“We know we have seniors housing issues, and a lack of accomodation in certain areas. Affordability issues, transitional issues,” said Mayor Dale Bumstead. “We’re at the seams, there is no place to go.”
“People who have disabilities are given $345 a month for housing,” said Councillor Charlie Parslow, noting many of them have to share housing to make it work. “It’s just not helping those individuals at all.
“Access to affordable housing is something I know the City is concerned about and would like to act on.”
Jerimy Earl asked if the City has ever provided an incentive to property managers or owners to provide a portion of their rental units as low income housing. CAO Duncan Redfearn said that he was not aware of any.
“It’s somebody’s property to do as they please, but you do look at the vulnerable people in our community, that is an issue, that is something I hear about constantly,” said Earl.
Councillor Blair Lekstrom noted the amount of land available for affordable housing.
“There’s very significant opportunity for Dawson Creek to be a partner when it comes to working with the provincial government and other governments. We’re very fortunate compared to many areas in the province — we have land availability,” he said.
Bumstead noted plans to turn the old Grandville School land, site of the old KPAC into affordable housing. The City is working with the PRRD on analysis for that.
“I really believe this is an issue for council that we need to put some momentum behind and get ourselves on track on moving this analysis forward,” he said. “We have the land, we have the need, we need to get it moving.”
Redfearn indicated that the PRRD intends to put out an RFP in June, noting that work was delayed.
Bumstead indicated he would bring back more information from the PRRD to council at the next meeting, and they could decide from there more initiatives they could work on.