Penticton is growing faster than imagined and even with a lot of housing coming to the area, the city needs more to keep up with the demand, said Mayor Julius Bloomfield in his first ‘State of the City’ address to the Chamber.
Bloomfield spoke to over 60 people at a breakfast meeting held at Okanagan College on March 8. The breakfast was put on by the Penticton Chamber.
There are 520 housing units currently under construction, 1,000 approved and 650 in the planning stages.
“We need to do more but we need to do it right the first time around,” said Bloomfield. “We’ve set up a housing task force that we are hoping some of you will consider joining to look at houses to increase housing here. We are also looking at city land for housing for the workforce or some kind of affordable housing. That information is coming in the next few weeks.”
Bloomfield also touched on how Penticton should grow. Bloomfield, who has been a real estate agent for over 30 years, said for Penticton to be a vibrant city, it needs to have a good mix of housing.
He also said there are people in Penticton who don’t want change and want the city to stay as it is. But growth and change is inevitable, he added.
The mayor was the first presenter in the Penticton Chamber’s “State of the City” series designed to give elected officials and other community leaders an opportunity to present to Chamber members, businesses-at-large, and the public when important events arise like the budget or large infrastructure projects.
The mayor briefly touched on the budget and the proposed tax increase of up to 9.7 per cent.
About 3.8 per cent of the increase is coming from inflation and 3.5 per cent is the tax deferral from last year.
“We have to make it up. We can’t just defer forever,” said Bloomfield.
When asking a question, Chamber executive director Michael Magnusson said they have noticed downloading costs onto municipalities in the past years.
An example is Lake Country property taxes are going up 17 per cent to pay for RCMP officers there.
Another question was about what the city is going to do with the $7.2 million it is getting from the province.
Bloomfield said he doesn’t have information on where that money is going.
Magnusson turned to crime in the city, pointing out the 124 businesses reported being broken into in 2022.
“Residents wanted change (during the election) because Penticton was moving away from being a vibrant community. Vibrancy is about having a great place to live.”
The city has now put together a safety action plan and will start implementing those goals. One of the first steps is going to Victoria and getting in front of the “people with the power and the purse strings.”
“Penticton is only one per cent of B.C.’s population so that means the province is also looking after 99 per cent of the other parts of the province. In order to get our one per cent heard, we have to see them face to face,” he told the crowd.
At the meeting, they will press the provincial government to help fund mental health and addictions with Car40 and complex care housing that shelter providers have been asking for.
“We also want to tell them that Penticton can be an innovator in housing,” he said.