Combine a growing population (including many more seniors and smaller families) with an already inadequate supply of affordable housing (ownership + rental for seniors, low-income families, seasonal workers) and the South Shuswap region of British Columbia has a growing affordable housing crisis. Although there are fewer people in the mostly rural Shuswap (which includes the Sorrento Centre and our many neighbours) than in big cities across Canada - and that leads to a tendency to think that Canada's housing woes are limited to heavily-populated urban areas. The Columbia-Shuswap Regional District - the local government for our beautiful though housing-insecure area of the interior of British Columbia - commissioned a housing needs assessment to map out housing needs and suggest an agenda for action (see report attached below).
Sorrento Centre ED Michael Shapcott will make a short public presentation to regional council on Thursday at 10 am on housing and homelessness in our region, and some home-grown solutions. He is President of the Board of the recently created South Shuswap Housing Society. The society was formed as a collaboration amongs groups and individuals in our region - including the South Shuswap Chamber of Commerce, the Sorrento Food Bank, the Sorrento Centre, the South Shuswap Health Services Society and St Mary's Anglican / United Church. You can register in advance to watch the CSRD council meeting.
Over the past year, the South Shuswap Housing Society has been consulting widely with our neighbours. The new housing needs assessment confirms what we have learned from our neighbours: there is a dire shortage of affordable housing, especially for seniors, low-income families and seasonal workers; and there are people who are living in vehicles, couch-surfing, living in tents and otherwise practically homeless. The housing crisis is a reality in our rural region.
Canada launched a new national housing strategy after a powerful campaign by advocates - committing to spend billions of dollars over the following decade for new affordable homes. While the announcement was welcomed, especially the commitment of the federal government to incorporate the right to housing into federal law, the reality is that too few resources have been allocated, especially in remote and rural regions like the South Shuswap. Leading national advocacy groups - like the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness - are pressing to secure meaningful commitments at the national level.
In BC, the provincial government - including BC Housing - has been allocating more funding for housing - especially as the COVID-19 crisis has started to bite deep. The biggest share of that funding is going to larger communities (where the largest part of the population is), leaving smaller communities and rural areas scambling.
The South Shuswap Housing Society has just started working with Habitat for Humanity Kamloops to develop our very first affordable housing project in our region. More details on our housing plans will be set out during a virtual community town hall meeting on housing and homelessness on Tuesday, October 20, at 6.30 pm. Stay tuned for details and registration information for the housing forum.
** Mark your calendar: Shuswap housing forum on Tuesday, Oct. 20, at 6.30 pm **