Last year, Telkwa concluded a housing needs assessment. The four key findings were that Telkwa right now needs: 1. more affordable family homes; 2. more smaller homes; 3. more units for seniors and 4. more affordable rental units.
Of course, with current needs and anticipated growth, these needs will only continue to grow and the village has spent a good deal of time and money over the last several years preparing for for that by improving infrastructure.
With that in mind, The Interior News asked the three byelection candidates to weigh in on the issue of infrastructure and housing.
All the candidates agreed that water and sewer are the most pressing need and the key to any kind of growth.
“For Telkwa to meet housing needs, infrastructure such as water services and sewers should be an absolute priority and apply for necessary funds made available to the provincial grants,” said Erik Jacobsen. “I would make this a motion to have the office staff investigate all possibilities for the available funds to complete these projects.”
Dave Livesey had a slightly different take, saying he believes current and previous councils have the water and sewer upgrades well in hand.
“I am confident that these repairs and improvements will be completed in time to handle any increases in volume that will come with new development,” he said.
“Now that a new water reservoir has been brought into use, the most pressing infrastructure needs in Telkwa are some sewer upgrades, construction of connecting trails and pathways, and better road connections into some of our neighbourhoods.”
Klaus Kraft agreed that the village’s attention to water and sewer is proceeding well and had some other suggestions on priorities.
“Street lighting in our village needs to be upgraded and added to for the safety of our community,” he said. “Unsightly weed control is something that needs more attention by the village. Telkwa needs to pursue any and all grants that may be available for any projects.”
He also underscored the importance of non-essential amenities.
“Finally, to enhance participation by our youth in the community (especially when we come out of this pandemic) Telkwa needs to look at upgrading the ball fields and soccer pitches and then at maintaining these sporting venues because as the community expands these places will be vital to the well being of our citizens. The community garden is a great idea, but needs more promoting.”
Since the housing needs have now been identified, the candidates had some ideas on how to address them and what should take priority.
Kraft focussed on attracting private investment with the village’s role being to ensure land is available for development.
“It will be up to potential builders to follow building codes and bylaws established for Telkwa as to what type of housing can be built,” he said. “I believe the senior housing issue is well in hand as 12 more units are slated to be built soon. “Rental housing housing may be one way to help with a housing shortage, but council needs to make this a viable option for investors.”
Livesey saw a little more prominent role for the village in coordinating efforts.
“To solve our housing shortages, it will be necessary to reach out to other levels of government, developers, and social service organizations,” he said. “Telkwa is working on a complete new set of zoning by-laws and the focus is definitely on allowing more inventive uses for properties. The framework will be there to allow garden suites, secondary suites, and higher densities, but it will require someone to coordinate it all and make sure that real solutions are found. Council should help set up some kind of local housing society, whether or not any private developers are willing to take on building affordable housing.”
Furthermore, he said, housing needs are across the board and should be the primary concern for council.
“I don’t think we can afford to prioritize one form of housing over another – we need more of every type and should adopt an attitude of encouragement and provide assistance to anyone who comes forward with proposals to increase housing supply. Housing should be prioritized above spending time trying to attract boom and bust types of industry. Slow and steady growth in which everyone has a secure place to live is preferable to a sudden boom of camp-style housing.
For Jacobsen, there is not yet enough information to plan future development.
“I think that the Telkwa council can only act on information given; we are not the experts,” he said. “We are to plan the guidelines for the direction to follow. I also think we should be able to listen to the general public ideas and the office staff. When all facts are available, then the council can prioritize the infrastructure and housing needs of the village.”
Nevertheless, he said he’s ready to get to it.
”I will suggest a plan should be developed where it would be the best opportunity to build more affordable family homes,” he said. Multiple complexes construction for affordable rental units could be made available under the same frame. For many people who cannot obtain full-time employment, it could be a generous gesture to society and mobilize such an adventure. We already have a Transit service to Smithers several times a day. We have a school, daycare facilities, playgrounds, Ice rink in place, to name a few. We already have a seniors complex, but as the trend goes, a lot more, especially for seniors, affordable housing will be the answer.”