“And now the moment we’ve all been waiting for.”
Prince Rupert Mayor Lee Brain aptly summed up the anticipation for the main highlight of last Monday’s council meeting, which was the first reveal of the final results of the 2015 Go Plan Survey.
The survey, a two-month summer initiative led by the City of Prince Rupert and a hired statistician, had its purpose become crystal clear during the meeting. The main one, of course, is to identify shortcomings and areas to improve in all levels of housing in the city, but it also takes aim at densification analysis, green space, parks and trails and lot and land usage.
The palpable anticipation by council and city planner and Go Plan Survey analyst Zeno Krekic was evident as the results from the survey are the first step to taking concrete action in addressing the city’s housing crunch, ranging from seniors’ housing to affordable to high-end.
A wide plethora of information came back to council and city staff and the first to be mentioned by Krekic in his presentation last Monday was the rent sensitivity model.
“An annual increase in rent is restricted to approximately 2.5 per cent,” said Krekic.
“Now that number – two per cent – doesn’t register any displacements. However, at three per cent, we have slight displacement, with 12 households displaced. This probably speaks towards things like ‘renovictions’, where units are being renovated and the rent increased. You can see how quickly it jumps – so at 10 per cent [rent increase], there are 26 per cent of [Rupert renting] households displaced and this translates to 573 households.”
Some important numbers from the Go Plan Population Survey beyond the initial figures reported by the Northern View in July, include a Prince Rupert total population estimation of 13,766, compared with an earlier 2015 B.C. Stats report of 11,900.
Twenty-one per cent of households want or expect to move within the next year, totalling 1,113 households. Of the rented households that expect to move, 42 per cent indicate they have no choice due to unaffordable rent increases, unsafe conditions and other involuntary reasons.
The total labour force participation rate for those aged 18 or older is estimated to be 74 per cent, which equals a labour force of 7,634, with 7,053 employed and the remaining actively looking for work. The estimated unemployment rate is 7.6 per cent, contrasted to a 2014 Labour Force Survey conducted by the province which pegs the North Coast and Nechako region as having an eight per cent unemployment rate.
Of particular note was the ‘shadow population’ that emerges with cities undergoing potential booms in industrial activity.
“While normal population change is generally divided among the three drivers of population change — births, mortality and migration — Prince Rupert’s demographic shift will largely be a function of worker migration. Existing population projections and estimation models do not account for this type of demographic change,” stated the results package.
“The Go Plan Survey provides a timely, accurate measure of Prince Rupert’s total population, including the emerging shadow population.”
Krekic reported to council that for every three camp workers industry in the city attracts, one more will come due to the opportunities that exist in the area, signalling a 3:1 ratio for a potential shadow population that traditional population studies don’t take into account.
“Hospitals are going to have more people using them. We’re going to have recreation and transit use increases and our roads are going to be used more and all those types of things,” said Mayor Brain last week.
“So, part of the debate is to show through data and other places like Kitimat, that these shadow populations come with work camp accommodations because there’s a bunch of offsetting jobs that happen around the industry itself … The more data we get, the better policies we can make to address it and we’re working with places like Fort McMurray and Kitimat – places that have experienced these things already. We’re lucky because we get to do this all before potentially a construction boom rather than try to figure it out during the process.”
Krekic added that reasonable conclusions on the following topics can be expected within the next two to eight weeks, depending on the scope of the topic. Council will be briefed as soon as Krekic’s staff has analyzed the data on the topics: perimeter lots, green (undeveloped) lands, densification, camp locations, innovative (sustainable) housing, affordable housing and parks and trails.
Coun. Barry Cunningham thanked Krekic for his work, but added that he would have liked to have seen some solid direction on which housing needs to immediately tackle first.
“We have three senior housing developments in town here, each one them has a waiting list of between 15 and 20 people. That alone tells me that we have a need for seniors’ housing,” said Coun. Cunningham.
Mayor Brain reiterated that it’s important to follow the processes originally set out by council and to trust the data and its analysis, which isn’t completely done yet.
“Seniors’ housing is something we absolutely need. The issue is this: seniors’ housing needs someone to help subsidize, so that the rent can be cheaper for seniors, so that they can live there without having to pay over $1,000 a month. So somebody needs to come to the table with some money and ongoing money to help subsidize the cost,” said Mayor Brain.
“Traditionally when you’re doing social housing or affordable housing, you have different levels of government involved. If you don’t have the right data to prove that we actually have that need [the government won’t have proof]. [The government] will say, ‘Well, prove that, because our numbers say this and this’. So the reason why we did the Go Plan and the Housing Market Surveys is to say ‘Hey, we actually have the numbers and we know that this many seniors need houses or are trying to move from their house to an affordable place … We can’t just provide anecdotal evidence.”
After a project meeting with city staff last week, Krekic is advising council to attend a workshop to look over the survey’s initial results in early to mid-September, with full analysis being completed after approximately eight weeks.