Plan of the modular home housing development in Cache Creek at the top of Stage Road, which should address some of the community’s housing challenges. (Photo credit: TRUE Consulting)

Cache Creek housing assessment highlights several challenges

Lack of rental housing and smaller homes for seniors identified as issues

A recently-completed Housing Needs Assessment for the Village of Cache Creek has concluded that while the community is still reasonably affordable, it faces several challenges, particularly when it comes to rental availability and affordability and an aging population that will need a different type of housing to what is currently available.

The assessment was carried out by M’akola Development Services and Turner Drake & Partners Ltd. for the Thompson-Nicola Regional District. In addition to Cache Creek, communities participating in the study were the Village of Clinton, the City of Merritt, the districts of Logan Lake and Clearwater, Sun Peaks Resort Municipality, and nine of the TNRD’s 10 electoral areas (municipalities including Ashcroft, Barriere, and Chase have done their own assessments).

At the Cache Creek council meeting of Feb. 1, Sandy Mackay of M’akola Development presented the assessment’s findings. Each local government will decide how to act on the information in the report to support their communities.

In 2019 the Province mandated that every municipality in B.C. conduct a Housing Needs Assessment by 2022. Once completed, the assessments need to be updated every five years, but Mackay suggested the village look to update it in two-and-a-half years. By then the complete set of data from the 2021 census will be available, enabling the first update to make use of the most current figures. After that he suggested that updates be done every five years, so as to always be using the most recent census figures.

Coun. Sue Peters said it was somewhat unfortunate that the report had to be done using the 2016 census figures, as changes to the community since then, such as the closure of the Cache Creek landfill in 2016, had had an effect on the population.

Cache Creek was deemed “reasonably affordable” in terms of housing, especially for households with moderate to above-moderate incomes. However, housing conditions have worsened for renters, with rental availability a challenge and rents increasing.

Mackay also noted that housing market pressure caused by COVID-19 in places such as the Lower Mainland and Kamloops has not yet impacted Cache Creek but could start to do so, as COVID-19 pushes people out of more urban centres.

The community’s aging population was also noted. Although the population of Cache Creek has remained stable over the past 15 years, household size is declining at the same time that the community is aging. In 2006, 20 per cent of Cache Creek’s population was 65 or older, with a median age of 46.6 years. In 2016 28 per cent of the population was 65 or older, and the median age was 54. By 2026 it is anticipated that 40 per cent of the population will be over the age of 65, and the median age will be 60.3.

Mackay said that with an aging population, household sizes tend to decline as children move out, but more homes are needed as those smaller households look to move to more suitable accommodation. “You need many, many more homes to meet the demands of the same number of people… You need to adapt and change your housing to suit that population.”

The report said that while many older residents worry about their ability to maintain larger properties, they are unable to downsize because of cost or the unavailability of suitable smaller properties. This highlights a need for land-use decisions that prioritize multi-unit housing, smaller units, housing that is closer to amenities and services, and more active/public transportation. Home care and semi-supported or supported housing options were also listed as desirable.

Mackay added that while many seniors expressed a desire for smaller homes and properties, they did not necessarily want fewer bedrooms. Homes with two or even three bedrooms were desirable, with people wanting a spare room for family to stay in, or to use as a home office or craft room.

Rental housing was also identified as a need for nearly all age cohorts, including families with school-age children. Rental housing in Cache Creek was described as increasingly more expensive and harder to find, with a vacancy rate of about two per cent and more families renting at more expensive rates.

Many employers noted that housing — or the lack of it — directly impacts their ability to attract and retain workers in key industries, including tourism, retail, construction, teaching, nursing, and municipal work. One respondent to a community survey about housing wrote “I was unable to fill a much needed position in the Ashcroft/Cache Creek area because we could not find a place to live for the qualified candidate. They had to turn the position down. It was a high paying great position within the hospital.”

Median house prices have been steadily rising in Cache Creek over the last 10 years, with an overall increase of 37 per cent in the cost of home ownership. Single-detached homes and manufactured homes showed the largest price increase, making the market harder to enter for middle-low income earners and single-income households.

A survey of Cache Creek residents showed that 34 per cent of all respondents indicated -their current housing was unaffordable. Among respondents who were renters, 65 per cent said their current housing was unaffordable.

“I know of multiple people who cannot find rentals, as well as many families renting while trying to buy a home, but there are hardly any listings,” wrote one person. “We need more affordable homes to purchase, around the $200,000 to $350,000 price range. This is not a wealthy community.”

Many survey respondents reported unsafe housing and poor housing conditions. “I once visited a run-down hotel where people were living in long-term,” wrote one person. “It was such an unpleasant environment that I never want to go back.”

Another person wrote “Housing for minimum wage persons in Cache Creek is impossible to find. The apartments are so riddled with drug addiction that those who are trying to find an affordable place to live are unable to do so. More affordable accommodation is needed here.”

At the conclusion of the presentation Mayor Santo Talarico noted that Cache Creek was looking forward to growth and to putting the report to good use.

“It’s nice to have a solid foundation as we start to plan out our growth in our community. We must have growth, so this is a good tool to move forward with.”

CAO Martin Dalsin added that the new housing development at the east end of Stage Road was a bright spot, as it hit the “sweet spot” of the type of housing identified as needed in the report. “They’re smaller houses, and the price range fits what they were talking about.”

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