The Smithers Housing Needs Assessment Report was presented to Smithers Town Council at the December 8 meeting.
The key finding, based on data collected from wide ranging sources, the current and projected housing needs, if left un-addressed will cause significant issues for the Town moving forward.
The report anticipates that the Town of Smithers will increase by 258 households between 2016 and 2021 and an additional 224 household’s between 2021 and 2026.
The expected housing need increase is factored from the young-families and singles moving to the community and seniors and older adults seeking to downsize and move closer to services and amenities.
There is a significant need for affordable housing at all point along the housing continuum from entry-level ownership to rental housing, the report notes in several sections.
The report commended the Town of Smithers for their success in creating a targeted supply of units to respond to specific and on-going needs in the community including 44 units of housing for individuals and families who are experiencing homelessness.
There are several recommendations of note, including the need for more supportive housing for seniors and housing for persons with disabilities, and intergenerational housing for Indigenous families and individuals including vulnerable and “at risk” youth.
In relation to the existing housing stock, the 2016 Census shows that a significant proportion was built before 1980 and may be reaching the end of its economic life. This translates into 55.5% of the existing housing stock.
To address this issue there is a need for investments in replacement housing as well as targeted investments and programs to improve the level of repair to bring it up to suitable standards in terms of quality, safety and energy efficiency.
Other population groups with specific housing needs were identified as low-income single parent family households; vulnerable and “at risk Indigenous youth; young adults wishing to move out of home and start their housing careers; seasonal and transitional workers; minimum wage earners; individuals with mental health or addictions-related challenges and more “pet-friendly” rental housing.
Currently, the Town of Smithers is preparing to undertake a review of their Official Community Plan and zoning bylaws, including the consideration of the development of an incentive-based policy to facilitate an expanded mix of housing choices to better respond to the range of housing needs identified in the report.