Editorial: Salmon Arm could do with more diverse housing options

Scan of local market shows limited inventory for renters

Housing is a challenge shared by communities large and small throughout the province, Salmon Arm being no exception.

Those challenges include a lack of housing or “affordable housing,” high rents and low vacancy rates. How low? Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp.’s (CMHC) figures for 2019 peg the overall vacancy rate in Vancouver at 1.1 per cent, and 3.9 per cent for Kelowna and area.

The average rent in Vancouver in 2019 according to CMHC was $1,227 for a bachelor suite and $1,382 for a single-bedroom unit. In Kelowna, it was $826 for a bachelor and $1,020 for a single-bedroom unit. Kelowna’s vacancy rate increased from 1.9 per cent in 2018, attributed to weaker demand and a steady supply of new units including campus housing.

While CMHC has no information specific to Salmon Arm, a quick scan of the local rental market shows a limited range of available options, with single-bedroom suites around $1,000 a month, two-bedrooms for $1,700 and a four-bedroom home for $2,100.

Basically, local rents are pretty close to what people are paying in Kelowna.

Read more: Interest in multi-family, commercial development picking up in Salmon Arm

Read more: Habitat for Humanity seniors housing project in Salmon Arm moving forward

The need for rental housing in Salmon Arm, and the Columbia Shuswap Regional District, is recognized by BC Housing in a summary report for the affordable housing project going up at 3rd Street SW. The report states, of the 21,7000 households in the CSRD, 23 per cent are renter households and, of those renters, “48 per cent are in core housing need” (falling below national standards for adequacy, affordability or suitability), and 20 per cent are at risk of homelessness.

When complete, the affordable housing project on 3rd Street, which will provide around 100 units of housing, will go some way to address local needs. But it won’t be enough.

According to the city, there is growing interest among developers in multi-family residential, rentals and even congregate living. There is without a doubt a need for more of these housing options in Salmon Arm and hopefully, in 2020, we’ll see some momentum on them.

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