Housing stock old, in need of repair

Prince Rupert is aging in population and housing stock according to a recent study executed by the Community Development Institute

Prince Rupert is aging in population and housing stock according to a recent study executed by the Community Development Institute (CDI).

Many people in the city complain about rising rent, low vacancy and overly priced homes in need of serious renovations but a recent northern B.C. housing study provided the numbers.

The housing and community profile, funded by BC Housing, was released Nov. 19 and painted a clearer picture for the provincial government on the situation in the north. Here are some of the highlights.

HOUSING

“Housing is a leading concern in Prince Rupert. Most of the existing housing stock is old and in need of repair. The rental pool is extremely limited and the cost of housing — and of rental units in particular — are inflated to the point of being unaffordable for residents,” the study states.

Housing stock in the city is older than most other northern communities. Approximately three-quarters are at least 35-years or older, and one-third of homes were older than 50 years.

There are many aging homes yet minimal residential development. Since 2006 there has been an average of 3.8 residential building permits per year and only 51 units were complete.

There was a small boost in 2015 with eight single family homes and two apartments built.

Selling prices for homes has increased between 2011 and 2016 — 44 per cent for a single-detached home. This rise goes hand in hand with the drop in listings. As of June 2016, the average selling price for a single family home was $285,055, which CDI considers to be mid-range.

CDI doesn’t have data for rentals in 2016 but the year prior was considered to be average with rents at $730 a month, not including utilities.

“Finding solutions and taking action on these and various other issues related to housing in northern B.C. are imperative to realizing the economic potential of the region,” said CDI co-director Marleen Morris who also authored the report. “The study is intended as a starting point for strengthening our understanding of these issues – revealing common trends across communities, and devising strategies for addressing them.”

COMMUNITY

More people are leaving Prince Rupert than moving in — at least that was what B.C. Statistics indicated. However, when the city commissioned its own study, a shadow population of 521 was revealed indicating a 3.5 per cent growth in population since 2011 due to the proposed liquefied natural gas projects in the area.

The city hosts a young population with the median age at 39.5 years but the 75-year and older population is expected to grow by 86 per cent by 2026. The province’s announcement of additional affordable housing units for seniors in the area, 30 in Prince Rupert, eight in Port Edward and eight in Lax Kw’alaams, will meet some of that demand but more units will be required in the future.

Unemployment rates dropped between 2014-2015, the only region to do so in the province, and it had the most gains in job creation. However, there was an 18 per cent increase in the number of people unable to pay their debts.

“Our hope is that this study will act as a catalyst to bring the housing sector together to develop innovative and collaborative approaches that will build resilience, flexibility and affordability,” Morris said.