Housing forum in Kitimat brings out ideas

An MLA-hosted housing forum in Kitimat brought out ideas for the future.

The path towards an eased housing market in Kitimat continued with a community housing forum hosted last Tuesday.

The March 18 event was hosted by Skeena MLA Robin Austin.

The event was put on in partnership with the Skeena Diversity Society, Terrace District Community Services Society, the District of Kitimat and Kitimat Housing Resource Project.

The panel included Austin, Kitimat housing resource worker Anne Moyls, the District’s Director of Planning and Community Development Gwen Sewell, area landlord Kevin Coelho, and Stacey Tyers.

A comprehensive list of suggestions was later compiled by Tyers after the meeting which included everything people had brought up regarding how housing should be developed in town. That list included requiring legislation which would allow municipalities to create bylaws to remove derelict buildings, develop mens’ shelters, incentives for secondary suites, and reduced rent for small apartments, among many other ideas.

Following the forum held last Tuesday, we were able to follow-up with Tyers to get her take on how it went and where the community can go from here.

“Obviously we know that we need federal and provincial government to step in and start footing the bill for some of these constructions,” she said. “And of course that resonated repeatedly through the forum.”

That said, she doesn’t feel that the province or federal government has given much thought to communities affected by housing issues.

“We’re facing all of these projects where we’re told ‘don’t worry, we’ll take care of you,’ but the problems are already starting and we’re already being blown off. It’s really hard to trust that when things get into full swing we’re going to have the help that we need, because we already don’t have the help to get ready for any of it.”

But beyond the senior levels of government, there are efforts that could be undertaken locally, both traditional and some ‘outside the box’ ideas.

“One I found interesting was renovating closed schools for mini-apartments. Is it feasible? I don’t know, but it’s something we could look at.”

Being from Terrace, Tyers does recognize certain ways that Terrace has it slightly easier than the District of Kitimat.

Namely, Terrace has land to themselves that can be put towards development,  whereas Kitimat does not have that luxury.

“Quite often even when the province has money to build the municipality’s part is to hand over the land but if you don’t have land you can’t hand it over. We’ve had that luxury,” she says of Terrace.

In general, Tyers told the Sentinel that developing affordable housing units is important, perhaps more than rental subsidies which may not make much dent against thousand dollar rents. And making people share homes and apartments will only put vulnerable people at risk.

From here continuing the conversation is very important.

“I think the important thing is to continue the conversation and continue sharing information. In both of our communities what is lacking is actually the information on what people are doing,” she said. “[Sewell’s] presentation…was really great. It shows that council has actually been working on it. But they don’t have the power to just run out and build houses. And that’s what people miss.”

Sewell presented a Powerpoint presentation giving the history of the District’s and Council’s actions regarding housing and presented long-range population forecasts should any projects be built.