Letter: Rethinking housing expectations

Affordable housing is a complicated term, if not misleading. In your editorial you wrote about income and rent, but not about size, demands and expectations, lifestyle and other costs. For me and my family “affordable” means something completely different compared with another family in our society.

A friend asked me few years ago: How many square feet do I really need? That should be the main question. Is there really a need for a 3 bedroom house with 2 or 3 bathrooms? Has every child a right for his or her own room? Is there a right for a 400 square foot living room?

If I have not enough income to afford a home with this size, can I expect or have the right for a home or an apartment that is smaller?

Let’s do some math:

To build a home costs us at least 150 -200 dollars per square foot, plus the property and related costs. The result – a 1000 square foot home in Valemount is possible for $150,000 plus $50,000 for a lot. An investor will have to think about mortgages, costs, depreciation etc. – let’s say 8-10 per cent annual return. That results in a monthly base rent (18000/12) of $1500 plus tax, water, energy. That’s way too much for the most renters, if the numbers in your article are right.
We have now some choices:

– We can build smaller homes (500 square feet could be affordable)
– We can increase the income, at least to the living wage ($19 x 2000 hours = $38.000 annual income)
– Both parents should be working, a retired couple should start working again (I can transform my lifestyle to another level and for 15-20 years accept no vacation, only old cars, no snow mobile, no trucks, no ATV, no smoking, bicycling instead of driving etc).

Or the society steps in and starts building social housing, not affordable housing, based on the expectations and rights in this society! I read, in other resort towns they build homes for low income families with an income under $40,000. Is this acceptable for all the other middle class families?

It seems our politicians don’t accept the responsibility for this topic, they promise lower taxes and other subsidies pending on their platform.

But there is another way, the old way. The town can provide lots for 1000 square foot homes. Families can lease or buy those lots and they start building “small” energy efficient homes, with their friends, families and builders. Perhaps in the first year only the kitchen, 2 rooms, a bathroom. Later, depending from on their income, it’s possible to build in the next stage more rooms if needed.

Almost every family started on this way two generations ago. You can still see those farm homes in the valley! The government can support this with secured loans or refundable mortgage subsidies and reducing the red tapes in this sector.

We have to find a new balance between financial support and a fair tax system. Its election time, but I don’t see an effort to create a real discussion about social topics, only the old answers.

Herbert Boenisch
Valemount

PS: Most residential zoning in Valemount requires a minimum of 88 square meters (about 950 square feet) for the main floor of a house. This is another obstacle and it shows how complicated the situation is.

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