By Laura Keil, Publisher/Editor
I’ve had some conversations lately about what life will be like “after the pipeline”—once the 1400 or so pipeline workers split town and we’re back to so-called “normal.” The conversation usually centres on two issues—the economy and housing.
Obviously the economy will take a hit. With so many more permanent residents here while the pipeline work occurs we’re going to notice fewer consumers. But the housing side of things is more complex.
While a dramatic number of new tenants have been absorbed into Valemount during the pipeline work, those pipeliners have been able to pay huge sums for homes or even just rooms. So available supply has gone up, since more people are willing to rent their private spaces due to the higher price, and since the tenants typically work 12 hours a day, six days a week and are seldom home. Once the pipeline work ends, tenants seeking homes won’t be the ones with $2,000/month live-out allowances. So chances are a lot of the existing supply will dry up as people take back their rooms or rentals for personal use.
So we’ll be back to “normal.” But what was normal before the pipeline? Does anyone remember?
Here’s a refresher that should make everyone concerned about the state of housing in Valemount. Things were bad even before the first pipeliner arrived in town. Some of this had to do with resort speculation, but that speculation is still with us today.
The first day we posted our house for rent in 2016 we had three people contact us urgently seeking housing for either their families or their employees.
The Valemount Affordable Rentals Society (VARS) was hatched the following year and got to work on a 13-unit apartment which has now opened.
Up to 95 households in Valemount—one in five households—were facing housing affordability issues as far back as 2011. A Village housing study completed in early 2016 analyzed 2011 statistical data for the area and found 60 households were in “core housing need,” meaning they spent between 30 and 49 per cent of their income on housing, and 35 were in “severe housing need,” spending 50 per cent or more on housing, which put them at risk of homelessness. Fifty homes (10.5 per cent) were in need of major repairs, above the provincial average.
According to a Goat article in early 2016, affordable housing advocate Rashmi Narayan said there were minimal rentals or housing options available for single people and young families even before the ski hill announcement.
Now is not the time to be complacent about housing. Without more rentals and affordable homes, stores will have fewer customers and businesses will continue to struggle to attract employees to town. It will put the economy in a vice grip. And we all know that’s the other challenge we’re about to face.