Study examines housing needs

LCCDT hosts workshops to collect feedback for strategic plan

After studying the region’s housing needs, an organization dedicated to advancing the social and economic strength of the area looks to develop a strategic plan.

M. Thomson Consulting was hired last spring to conduct an attainable housing needs assessment for the Lower Columbia Community Development Team (LCCDT).

With this study now complete, a number of upcoming workshops will be held to prioritize housing strategies for the region that will ultimately shape an attainable housing strategic plan.

“Now that we’re moving into strategy, we’ll be looking at what we want to implement,” said Jan Morton, chair of the LCCDT’s attainable housing committee. “There are a few ideas in his report but this is where we absolutely need input from people.”

The report assessed attainable housing across a spectrum – from shelter needs for the homeless to entry-level homeownership – identifying strengths and weaknesses.

“There really is an absence of supportive housing for those who really need support – whether it’s people recovering from substance abuse or it’s mental health issues or it’s people recovering from relationship abuse – and I’m talking about long-term,” said Morton, adding that this is further highlighted by landlords dealing with tenants, who need a supportive living environment.

“It’s all part of an eco-sphere – there’s an interconnection between all the components,” said Morton, pointing to the number of aspects explored in the report.

Other areas identified included the need for seniors housing for those who have yet to reach the extended-care lifestyle, age of housing stock and attracting and keeping younger people in the region.

“The other thing that certainly isn’t new news for me but was hitting me between the eyes is the relativly small number of younger people we are producing in this community and the implications that has for the labour market,” said Morton.

The report identified an aging population as a major demographic issue; with BC Stats projecting that over 25 per cent of the population will be 65 or older by 2021.

An emerging issue for the region is homelessness. In February and March 2011, an extreme weather emergency shelter opened in Trail for the first time to address street homelessness and was regularly used by a number of clients.

While homelessness is visible in Trail, those interviewed noted that it’s probably only a small portion of individuals who experience this risk but many who may have mental health or addictions issues.

The needs assessment used existing data from sources like Statistics Canada and Teck Metals Ltd. to develop a demographic, economic and housing profile for the region, which helped pinpoint current or emerging needs and gaps in Trail, Warfield, Rossland, Montrose, Fruitvale and Area A and B.

Extensive interviews with key players from local government, the real estate and development sector, employers, non-profits and service providers supplemented this data.

“To me what is really valuable about the study is that we’ve got all the information in one place now rather than different pieces of information that one group has versus another,” said Morton.

With the study now available to the public – online at www.lccdt.com or in hard copy for loan at libraries in Trail, Rossland and the Beaver Valley – the consultant is now asking residents to get involved in the development of a strategic plan.

Working sessions to help develop strategies will be held at the Fruitvale Community Hall in the lower meeting room Oct. 4 from 5-8 p.m., Oct. 5 in the Muriel Griffiths Room in the Greater Trail Community Centre from 3-6 p.m. and Oct. 6 from 6:30-9:30 p.m. in Rossland Secondary School’s cafeteria.

To register for these sessions, contact Terry Van Horn at 364-6461 or tvanhorn@lcic.ca