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Telkwa losing its legacy of being affordable

Results of housing survey shows need for more affordable family homes

There’s been a change in the real estate market in Telkwa. The community once known to be affordable is slowly starting to see prices rise, according to a new report on housing in the village.

The housing survey results were presented by Alison Watson of Watson Projects to council at its regular meeting June 23 with some surprising results.

Eighty people responded to the survey, but the report also included interviews with developers, real estate agents and other stakeholders.

“They [real estate agents] are seeing housing prices in Telkwa now going for what they never thought they’d go for,” Watson told councillors. “Moving past the legacy of being an affordable community into the future will be tricky.”

Watson outlined the four key needs the report discovered. The first was the need for more affordable family homes.

“From the data, we know Telkwa has more families than other communities in the area and more children. The percentage of children under 12 is higher than other communities in the region, but especially in the last couple of years there has been constraint… in available lots to build on and single-family homes for purchase,” she said. “Having more lots and homes on the market in the future will build on what Telkwa is good at and known for, affordable homes for families and first-time buyers as well as long term residents wanting to continue to live in the community.”

The second need was for smaller home options because 57 per cent of households in Telkwa have one or two people. Most of the housing stock is single-family homes with three-plus bedrooms.

“Looking forward to start thinking about smaller home options for people looking to downsize, for empty nesters, seniors, and this would, in turn, free up the larger homes for families so it all works together,” she added.

There is also a growing senior demographic in Telkwa so the third need outlined in the report was for seniors housing.

“Over the last ten years, seniors aged 65 plus have increased over 80 per cent. This is a huge demographic switch that will continue. Senior housing options… there are some, but they are full with waitlists,” Watson said.

The fourth housing need was for more affordable rentals.

“There is a big divide in rental affordability and homeowners,” she said. “Right now, one in five renters, or 20 per cent, spend over 30 per cent of their income on housing, which is the bar for affordability. Whereas owners, seven per cent of all owners spend over that threshold. So, yeah, for Telkwa, it is affordable for homeownership but not renters.”

The purpose of the report was to understand current and future housing needs in the community and be a resource to support Telkwa in responding to its housing needs. It was also required to be done. Provincial legislation now requires all local governments to complete a report by April 2022 and every five years after that.

“This is the start of a story that will shift and evolve based on future data collection and recording years,” added Watson.

While this is the first housing needs report, there was a similar one done in 2011 that just focused on affordable housing. Watson said there was a much better response to this survey than for the previous one.

The report will also help Telkwa and its stakeholders apply for grants including the NDIT (Northern Development Initiative Trust Dollars to Door Program.

“This report is a prerequisite to apply for it,” said Watson. “That is a cashback to the development community for developing multi-family homes. You are ahead of the curve, being one fo the first communities to get their housing report done.”

Watson said this report can also help with discussions with Telkwa Coal.

“Use this information to strengthen your case to say industry can come to the table with their plans for housing,” she advised.

Marisca Bakker

About the Author: Marisca Bakker

Marisca was born and raised in Ontario and moved to Smithers almost ten years ago on a one-year contract.
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