While there’s plenty of work to be found building houses in Salmon Arm, finding a place to rent in the city has been a struggle for carpenter Mel Hanson and his family.
Since late last summer, the Ponoka, Alta. resident has been looking for a place he and his family of six could relocate to in Salmon Arm where he has been able to find steady work in construction.
“I’m building houses but I can’t find a place to live,” said Hanson, who has been working in two-week shifts in Salmon Arm and returning home on weekends to be with his family.
“Early on in our marriage we decided not to go the oilfield/construction way because I’d be gone so much and, now, here we find ourselves… I’m gone just to survive,” said Hanson.
Hanson said whenever a suitable rental option does come available, one within his budget, it’s typically rented out before he’s able to view the place.
“There’s 10 families looking for the exact same place we are and it doesn’t seem to be changing,” said Hanson.
The experience has been the same for Jennifer Silzer, who relocated from Alberta to Salmon Arm for work. For more than three months she has been looking for a two-bedroom place suitable for her and her child.
“We’re staying with my mom right now which is great sometimes, but other times – it’s your mom, right,” laughed Silzer who, like Hanson, is finding the lack of rentals challenging, and what some people are asking for rent unreasonable.
“I think $1,200 would be a reasonable price, but to charge $1,400, all the way up to $2,300, for something that’s two to three bedrooms, that’s just a little crazy.”
Silzer said having a young child is also proving a barrier with prospective landlords.
Lyle Hill, a realtor of 18 years and property manager with HomeLife Salmon Arm Realty, said it’s currently easier to find work in the community than it is a place to rent.
“I’ve had lots of calls in the last few months from people that have a job lined up here if they can find a place to live and that’s a bigger challenge than finding the work,” said Hill, adding the rental market has been tight in the community for about three years.
Hill said he’s had rental listings on Facebook that he’s pulled within half a day due to the number of calls he’s received.
“There probably isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t get a call or email from somebody looking for a place and there’s still a shortage,” said Hill.
City councillor Louise Wallace Richmond, who sits on the city’s Housing Task Force, said the population growth Salmon Arm is currently experiencing is putting pressure on the housing supply and, in turn, is having a direct impact on the vacancy rate. She said the city went through the same situation in 2017. However, she explained, since then the city and council has worked with local housing providers and senior levels of government to address emergency, supportive and subsidized rental housing.
“And by and large, this has been successful, including the 90 plus units of new housing on Fifth Avenue operated by the CMHA (Canadian Mental Health Association) and scheduled for completion by the end of 2021,” said Wallace Richmond, adding Okanagan College has also been approved for 60 units, “which will alleviate some pressure for our student population and this is a significant move.”
Wallace-Richmond noted council is mindful of the need for increasing residential density and is seeing some momentum on that front, including 140 rental units approved on a property across from the Mall at Piccadilly. In addition, the city’s policy on secondary suites continues to be well utilized, with more than 300 suites now legally zoned.
“I would add that the market conditions in Salmon Arm are attractive to developers and, in the medium and longer term, we will see an increase in housing supply,” said Richmond. “But certainly in the crunch we now see, it’s a challenging period, which is why we continue to advocate on a regular basis with our housing providers and partners to address concerns as they arise.”
Silzer said she will be applying for one of the 90 units on Fifth Avenue. As of April 12, Hanson had one more week of work left in his contract. After that, he said if hasn’t found a place to rent, it will no longer be feasible to remain in Salmon Arm.
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