A fire at a homeless camp in Polson Park was extinguished by Vernon firefighters early Monday Feb. 8. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)

Need for all housing identified by Vernon Mayor

‘As Mayor of Vernon, the last thing I want to see is a moratorium on supportive housing projects’

  • Feb. 23, 2021 9:30 a.m.

Like many communities, affordable housing is a pressing issue in Vernon. The recently completed Regional Housing Needs Assessment identifies the urgent need to add more affordable housing units to the North Okanagan. Vernon’s rental vacancy rate is hovering around one per cent – the lowest it has been in more than a decade (according to an October 2020 report from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation).

The provision of housing for all community members is a key concern for local government. So how is Vernon responding to the needs and demands of a diverse and growing community?

Council’s Strategic Plan 2019-22 has specific goals and a commitment to add more affordable housing in Vernon through local and provincial partnerships:

  • Create accessible and attainable housing for families with annual income below $70,000
  • Develop affordable housing partnerships, including the use of City lands
  • Continue to partner with BC Housing, not-for-profits and the development community on affordable housing, including the use of City-owned land

Through a solution-based, collaborative approach, Vernon has increased its affordable housing inventory by more than 400 units since 2008, with a mix of affordable units, supported housing and permanent shelter beds. Vernon has also worked with numerous private sector developers to see approximately 570 new rental units enter the market in the same period.

Currently, another seven affordable housing projects and two supported housing projects (including 24-7 staff support) are in progress, which will add 297 new units to the community. These projects provide essential housing for lower-income seniors and families, safe housing for women and children transitioning out of domestic violence situations, affordable housing for adults, and surety of basic shelter for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness.

Our community has a need, as clearly demonstrated by the hundreds of applicants on current waitlists for affordable housing. Therefore, we are taking specific and strategic steps to fulfil that need in a responsible and sustainable manner.

READ MORE: Finding a home ‘impossible’ in Vernon

But we are not doing this alone.

Accessible, attainable and supported housing solutions in Vernon are only made possible through our collaborative work with BC Housing, which has provided funding to groups such as the Canadian Mental Health Association, Vernon and District Community Land Trust, Vernon Pensioners Accommodation Society, Archway Society for Domestic Peace, Habitat for Humanity, Vernon Native Housing Society, and Turning Points Collaborative Society. These groups manage affordable housing. More than 2,000 Vernon residents benefit from the efforts of these service agencies.

Since Friday morning, more than 90 heartfelt letters have been received by my office, from a wide variety of professionals, concerned citizens, and those close to BC Housing initiatives. These letters and calls support the availability, operation and positive impact of supportive housing on our citizens, our businesses and our city.

As Mayor of Vernon, the last thing I want to see is a moratorium on supportive housing projects. At some point, local motels that have been used as shelter accommodation during the COVID-19 pandemic response will transition back to tourism. This will force individuals who are without housing back on to the street and into our parks and downtown core.

READ MORE: Vernon councillor ready to refocus ‘too broad’ housing audit motion

Any delays in supportive housing projects would have a significant impact on downtown and area businesses and the wider community. Without these new supportive housing units, we are likely to see a surge in new homeless individuals and added pressure on the Bylaw Department, the RCMP, and our healthcare system to manage and respond to increased numbers of people sleeping outside, who would otherwise be housed in the new units.

BC Housing is a vital partner and resource in making affordable and supported housing available in Vernon. The organization has specific criteria for its supportive housing buildings, including 24-7 staffing, and is geared towards people who are experiencing or may be at risk of homelessness, who require support with mental health and or substance abuse, and who need supported services to maintain a successful tenancy.

In Vernon, supportive housing is provided by Turning Points Collaborative Society (TPCS) at My Place. TPCS has supplemented its services by adding a community support worker, a health navigator/counsellor, in-house recovery groups and on-site pharmacy services to assist the residents of My Place.

Through consultation with area residents and businesses, we are advised that the neighbourhood near My Place “improved in the past year,” and that the majority of local businesses would “support more supportive housing in the community.” This is positive and encouraging feedback.

The facts are clear. We need more affordable and supported housing in Vernon, not less. And working with BC Housing to access vital financial resources and housing supports is how we take positive steps forward in filling the needs of our residents to build a stronger, more resilient, and more productive society.

Victor Cumming

Mayor of Vernon

READ MORE: Homeless, senior and starter housing builds in Vernon

affordable housingHousing

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

A fire at a homeless camp in Polson Park was extinguished by Vernon firefighters early Monday Feb. 8. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)

Just Posted

The dam at Thirsk Lake, west of Summerland, was expanded in 2007. A crack has now been discovered where the old and new portions of the dam meet. (Summerland Review file photo)
Crack at Thirsk Dam to be examined

Reservoir west of Summerland was expanded in 2007

Mike Boersma and Adrienne Betts of Granny’s Cafe, at left, present Janet Peake of the Summerland Food Bank and Resource Centre, with a cheque for $1,310 from a recent fundraising event. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
Cafe raises more than $1,300 for Summerland Food Bank

Money raised during one-day fundraiser in early February

FILE – A COVID-19 vaccine being prepared. (Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing)
B.C. seniors 80 years and older to get COVID vaccine details over next 2 weeks: Henry

Province is expanding vaccine workforce as officials ramp up age-based rollout

Summerland has received conditional approval for $6 million in federal funding to build a one-megawatt solar array to provide power to the community. (Stock photo)
Summerland council reaffirms solar project in 4-3 vote

Coun. Richard Barkwill had earlier written letters in opposition to initiative

Photograph By @KAYLAXANDERSON
VIDEO: Lynx grabs lunch in Kamloops

A lynx surprises a group of ducks and picks one off for lunch

(Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. residents can reserve provincial camp sites starting March 8

B.C. residents get priority access to camping reservations in province

The Penticton Speedway has been sold but the investment group who bought it is planning to create an enhanced racetrack and racing experience. (File photo)
Penticton Speedway sold and will remain a racetrack

Investment group that includes founder of Area 27 intends to buy the Speedway

The District of Sicamous announced plans to purchase and manage the Sicamous Medical Centre on Tuesday, Feb. 24. Colleen Anderson and Malcolm Makayev have been overseeing this and other health matters on behalf of the district’s council. (Jim Elliot-Eagle Valley News)
Sicamous to purchase retiring doctor’s business, take over management

Move intended to attract new doctors by allowing them to focus on patient care

Two women were arrested in Nanaimo for refusing to wear masks and causing disturbance on a BC Ferries vessel. (File photo)
B.C. ferry passengers arrested and fined for disturbance, refusing to wear masks

Police said woman threatened their pensions in Feb. 21 incident aboard Nanaimo-bound boat

(File photo)
‘Give me your stuff! Oh, hello, officer’: Man surprised by Kamloops Mountie

A man trying to enter a vehicle stopped in Kamloops was greeted by an off-duty Kamloops Mountie inside

When his owner had knee surgery, Kevin, 2, was able to continue to go for walks thanks to volunteers from Elder Dog Canada. (Contributed photo)
B.C. woman has nothing but praise for Elder Dog Canada

National organization has a fleet of volunteer walkers ready, but needs more clients to serve

Project rendering of Hadgraft Wilson Place (CNW Group/Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation)
68-unit affordable housing complex coming downtown Kelowna

The six-storey complex located on Fuller Ave is set to be completed by fall 2022

A man was arrested after he refused to vacate Alexander’s Beach Pub in Coldstream while not adhering to the business’s COVID-19 mask-wearing policy Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021. (Google Maps photo)
Man arrested for refusing to leave Coldstream store without wearing mask

Store owner says man likely came in looking for an argument: ‘the fellow had a notepad’

Most Read