KITIMAT VIEW: Greed is not the problem on housing

People say it's greed that is driving up prices in Kitimat so fast. But is that just a scapegoat?

One of the biggest challenges in today’s housing situation in Kitimat is to think of ways forward and not to sling stones.

It’s something I see frequently in discussion about today’s housing market: it’s a direct result of ‘greed’, the same driving force behind everything that may ill our region from pipelines to marine traffic.

Landlords are being greedy, people say, and its hurting low income and vulnerable people in town.

That second part I don’t dispute.

I’ll be speaking with a resident of a Kuldo apartment building who, like others, has received an eviction notice because of plans to renovate the building he lives in, one of the few ways a landlord can evict someone from a building.

There’s no justice in having to move in a market where availability is so low.

But I’d argue it’s not greed.

People who own apartment buildings typically don’t do so out of a philanthropic spirit, it’s a business.

But definitely there’s a crossover to be had between business and human welfare.

The trouble really is that Kitimat has had to expand so quickly there’s little give in the vacancy.

Those who own rental units are adapting to a new market.

Kitimat benefitted so long from such affordable rates — rates which I enjoyed when I first lived here — but that was a factor of low demand and a harder economy.

If we as a community had more time to anticipate these changes we may have been quicker to get new projects, new housing units, units designed for lower income families.

Projects are coming now, however. It’s not an overnight process, but we’re inching closer to the housing stock we need for balance.

And the cold weather shelter should be an effective stop-gap effort for those who need it over the next few months.

But as for our collective problem, we can’t simply blame greed. It’s not greed, it’s really a bigger issue.

Too many people, too little places, all happening too soon.

It’s similar to why I was paying far more in rent when I lived in Smithers than when I did in Kitimat. Vacancy in Smithers, at the time at least, was very, very low.

If there were rooms galore, I bet I would have had a deal.

But no one cried ‘greed’ in Smithers.

Cameron Orr

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