(The full plan can be found here.)
After much anticipation, a government Housing Action Plan for Kitimat was publicly released earlier this month.
The report puts down a number of recommendations for Kitimat to deal with housing challenges on a number of fronts, from worker housing to affordable housing.
“As a small community heavily dependent on industry, Kitimat is affected by changes in housing demand that are closely associated with decisions of major industries,” says a portion of the report’s key findings.
“Although it is difficult to quantify, a number of people with low incomes…are unable to afford higher rents for suitable housing.”
The report goes on to provide a number of recommendations. One is for continued funding for the Extreme Weather Response shelter, which operated in Kitimat last winter. The reports points out eight people used it last year, but Kitimat’s housing resource workers “observe that the number of people sleeping rough has visibly increased in 2014.”
The report also highlights a need for a “second-stage” transitional house which would give women and children a place to live for up to two years while looking for permanent housing.
On the matter of rent supplements, the report says there is a need to make existing rental subsidy programs more widely known and promoted, by the District of Kitimat and outreach workers.
“BC Housing should consider adding 10 or more rent supplements and increasing the threshold limits for both programs,” says the report, which includes a suggestion for the increasing of the annual gross housing maximum, which is currently $35,000 for the Rental Assistance Program.
The report also touches on the issue of temporary workers housing. In it the report says that living out allowances should not be acceptable, “as they quickly and artificially inflate rental rates in a small community.”
This opposition to living out allowances, the report continues, should be conveyed to proponents of future projects, and to their contractors.
Rio Tinto Alcan had offered living out allowances earlier in the modernization project but have since discontinued that offer.
We spoke with Chevron about their perspective on Kitimat’s housing — given they have an up-to 600 bed permitted camp near the former Eurocan plant now — and they say that camp is designed to reduce stress to Kitimat’s housing market.
“It’s strictly designed to mitigate social impacts to the community that might be associated with our project construction and the number of workers that we need,” said Gillian Robinson Riddell from Chevron’s communications department. “Our goal is always, with our social investment plan, is that we’re not negatively impacting communities we do business in.”
Their camp is self-contained and they even use Eurocan’s former landfill for waste.