The Summerland council is facing two significant social issues over the next several years.
The first is a lack of long term health care facilities.
The 2016 Canada Census for Summerland indicates that the community’s population distribution is skewed dramatically to persons approaching or over 65 years of age.
Persons over 65 now represent over 30.3 per cent (3,520 persons) of the total district population. The Canada average is 16.9 per cent.
In addition, about another 1,200 Summerland residents are aged 60 to 65. This percentage (around10 per cent) is also atypical for most Canadian communities.
The numbers are growing.
With respect to persons over 65, this reflects a five per cent increase over the last census.
These skewed demographics are, over the next years, about to place a huge strain on the long term health care resources available in the community.
There are currently only about 420 long term health care beds in Summerland with wait lists varying from two to as much as seven years.
People in need are being forced into hospital beds, displacing space and resources intended to serve other members of the community. Over the next several years the demand for these long term health care beds will increase rapidly.
Simply put, Summerland is on the precipice of a health care crisis.
The second major social issue is a shortage of housing.
This shortage exists at most points along the cost spectrum, but most significantly at the single family entry level.
District council understands there is no single solution, that a portfolio of resources will be needed to ease the pressure on families.
As a response, council has been welcoming high density development applications including those that make housing available at the lower end of the cost spectrum.
Mike Chui is a leading mortgage broker from Vancouver. He is both well versed and well respected in the area of senior health care facilities, financing and the impact of health care facilities on the retail housing market. When approached, he offered the following indicator.
“The penetration rate into a community’s retail housing market when a new senior health care facility is introduced is about 13 per cent. With the high Summerland age demographic, I would expect the rate to be significantly higher”.
This suggests anywhere from 50 to 80 Summerland homes could come onto either the rental or retail sales market with the build out of the Lark development.
In summary, council has been presented with a unique opportunity to address both the pending long term health care crisis and the housing shortage with a single decision.
The Lark application, if approved, will add about another 400 new beds to the Summerland long term health care inventory.
The spinoff effects on Summerland’s housing market would also be significant.
Council has perhaps, a once in a lifetime opportunity to take a significant forward step for the future of our community.