I’m going to harken back to Tintin, but it’s a common device in movies –just as Tintin figures out the plot against him, the gun appears behind his head, or a trap falls over him.
It’s not always possible to know what we’ll need to know in the future. But as Valemount peers into its possible future as a ski resort town, it’s worth asking what we can take away from other communities that have gone through a similar change.
Revelstoke is one such community that is still in the midst of the ski-resort metamorphosis. Affordable housing, especially temporary housing, appears to be its biggest social, and economic, issue. It’s a huge job to tackle for a city of just 7,000 permanent dwellers. Look at how Vancouver is struggling to keep up with demand for affordable housing.
It’s important to remember the ramifications of there not being enough places to live. One, it drives up the cost of living for employees, adding a burden to businesses who can’t find employees or can’t afford them. This isn’t specific to Revelstoke. A study commissioned by the City revealed that affordable housing was the number one reason cited by employers for shortage of labour in resort communities.
Secondly, it leads to some people living in less-than-ideal conditions – either with 10 other roommates or in a house that is not maintained.
Let’s not forget that Revelstoke has been proactive to some extent. The City expanded its housing committee and helped to create a non-profit housing society to oversee the development of affordable places to live. Still, rent is higher than anywhere else in similarly sized towns in the Kootenays.
Is the answer the tiny house on wheels that some Revelstoke residents have built for themselves? More secondary suites? New compact housing developments?
No doubt it’s a combination of these and other solutions. But until it’s figured out, it’s a ball and chain on a community with tough legs and a strong beating heart. The city will still thrive, but not nearly in the same way as if the housing crunch did not exist.
It’s strange to think of real, marked poverty in a resort municipality. Does an internationally-known multi-million dollar development not lift up everyone?
I look forward to finding out more about Revelstoke’s solution to its housing crisis in the coming years. Its solutions may be applicable elsewhere.