First of all, I would like to congratulate the authors of the recently completed Valemount Housing Report. After reading it cover to cover, I was impressed by the exhaustive work that has been completed, and I do think that our Village has finally received some value for yet another study that has been commissioned.
There are several conclusions the report seems to infer that I do support. Mainly the conclusion that staff housing for business is NOT the responsibility of the municipality. A fast food franchise is worth over a million dollars without the real estate included. Such businesses generate millions annually even in our tiny town. As such, it is ridiculous for them to expect the village to provide or even partner in providing housing. A house in Valemount even now is under $500,000. Local hotels have purchased their own staff houses. The local heli ski operation has purchased and/or rented their own staff houses. No more significant staff time should be wasted on pursuing public-assisted or partnered housing for high volume businesses with the majority of margins leaving the community as profit and shareholder payout.
Now there certainly are instances where public and municipal-sponsored or partnered housing is not only needed but morally demanded. Seniors for example. As well as people with a disability. It should go without saying that any community should accommodate and support the housing needs of the vulnerable. But there is another category that should qualify for public housing if market housing simply is not available: teachers, nurses and other public employees. While this may be an unpopular opinion with some, it is a simple fact of remote living. Do you want teachers in this town? The only teachers who own a house in this town have already retired or bought it several years ago. The days of a young teacher showing up here, renting for a year then getting married and mortgaging a house are over. Same for nurses. So who is going to replace our teachers as they either retire or get fed up living here and leave? With the great public-spending economic reckoning looming, teachers and nurses are not going to be getting significant pay raises soon. If we want to attract and retain basic public services in this town, temporary and transition housing for public servants is not an option. But the Village should not be paying for this, housing for new and transitory teachers should be part of the School District budget. As well, nurse housing must come from Northern Health. Rural Northern BC had housing for public servants in the past. We still have public housing for RCMP officers. We are quickly coming full circle. It should not be luxury, and there should be annoying rules like no alcohol on premises, but just enough to encourage a young teacher or nurse to find private accommodation as soon as possible. Yet the option to move here immediately upon job offer is on the table.
And this brings me to my final point. The only criticism I have of the report is that it skips over the issue of “streamline the approval process.” It is easy to say this. But regulatory hurdles are not some phantom menace that can just be told to calm down. Want to build your own house? Sorry not allowed… there is a new law stopping that. Want to install your own septic system instead of paying $40,000 upfront? Sorry not allowed, there is a new law stopping that. Want to subdivide your land? Sorry it now costs $20,000 to put 4 metal rods in the ground. Want to build a road for your new subdivision? Sorry it has to be paved. Now I can already hear some objections, this does not affect housing within the municipality. But you cannot separate the housing market between the Village of Valemount and the 566 service area. They are one in the same. The list goes on. If the authors of the report are commissioned to do a revision or update in the future, I ask that they spend more time actually listing and naming exactly what makes building a house ten times more difficult and five times more expensive than just one generation ago. And dig deep. Yes, in theory you can still do an owner-installed septic system. But good luck getting any of the private inspectors you must hire to certify it. Why would they help you not hire them to build it? And so the true root-cause analysis of the problem remains untouched. Each level of government continues the gaslighting saying…”well you can still build your own septic system” while nobody is willing to actually “streamline the approval process” and tell the private inspectors to start certifying owner-built systems or lose your license. Same with the horrible “certified home owner” building program. We should have never gotten rid of the public building inspector certification process in the first place. We do not need more government-provided housing outside of the vulnerable demographics listed. We need more government encouragement and getting out of the way of young people building their own houses, as used to be, and should remain forever, a standard economic right of passage in rural Canada.