Housing issues in Summerland were the topic at a candidates forum on Monday evening.
The forum, at Summerland United Church, was organized by the Summerland Food Bank and Resource Centre and included presentations from organizations working with housing and poverty in the community.
John Bubb, president of the Summerland Food Bank and Resource Centre, said the centre has been working to create an emergency and transitional housing facility since 2010.
The need for such housing is even greater today than it was at the time, he said.
Alyson Lindsay of the Summerland Asset Development Initiative said rising housing costs and a lack of affordable housing options are affecting youths in the community.
“I have observed kids in crisis as a result of a trend that has become all too familiar: families with nowhere to live,” she said.
Armand Houle, pastor of Summerland United Church, said the church has been considering whether to demolish the existing building and replace it with a structure housing the church on the ground floor and 55 to 83 affordable housing units on the upper floors.
The biggest barrier has been the high cost of construction.
Sandy Berry of the Parkdale Place Housing Society said there are ways for the community to aid in the creation of affordable housing units.
Rick Gay, pastor of Summerland Alliance Church, said the church has presented a proposal for affordable, attainable and sustainable housing, targeting multi-generational families.
“We believe that we are not just creating an affordable housing project. It is much more than that,” he said. “We see this as a divine mandate.”
Summerland’s two mayor al and nine councillor candidates said the high cost of housing is an issue facing the community.
“It’s a problem that has taken a long time to come to the forefront,” said Coun. Erin Carlson. “We do need housing options.”
Councillor candidate Doug Patan said the next council can look at secondary suites, microsuites and other housing options.
“Unfortunately, the tools available to the municipality are limited,” he said.
Councillor candidate Ron Kubek said this is a time for action, not simply additional studies.
“Let’s put the shovels in the ground,” he said.
Mayoral candidate Toni Boot said efforts are needed to allow different housing options for affordable or attainable housing solutions.
“Summerland has an attainable housing crisis,” she said.
Mayoral candidate Janet Peake also talked about the need for increased housing diversity within the community. She said it is important for municipal staff to work with nonprofit organizations to address housing needs.
Councillor candidate Mark Smed said housing needs are not just limited to the community or the region.
“Housing is becoming a big concern all across Canada,” he said.
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He added that there is funding available and the community could tap into some of the money to address housing needs.
Martin Van Alphen said there are zoning solutions to allow for affordable housing, but property for housing remains a concern.
“We need the land. That’s number one,” he said.
Coun. Erin Trainer said providing affordable housing is a difficult challenge, but one that will take a long time to resolve.
Coun. Richard Barkwill said solutions are needed in order to help the most vulnerable in the community.
Councillor candidate Claude Gautron said housing issues are a concern since roughly half the households in Summerland are spending more than 30 per cent of their income on accomodations, and the community has a zero per cent vacancy rate.
Coun. Doug Holmes said finding solutions to the community’s housing needs will require work from all.
“It’s a complex issue that requires all levels of government, the private sector and the public sector to all work together,” he said.