A sign board set up at the Nanaimo Affordable Housing Strategy expo at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church on Saturday. News Bulletin photo

Editorial: Affordable housing won’t happen on its own

We should be thinking about affordable housing as Nanaimo quickly grows outward, inward and upward

Nanaimo’s affordable housing strategy isn’t quite finished yet. But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be thinking about affordable housing in the meantime as Nanaimo quickly grows outward, inward and upward.

The Nanaimo Affordable Housing Strategy discussion paper was presented to Nanaimo city council last week as a deliverable in the process leading up to potential adoption of the strategy in mid to late summer.

RELATED: Nanaimo’s affordable housing strategy now up for discussion

The strategy has been in the works for about a year and it’s interesting to note just how much the housing market in Nanaimo has changed since then. House prices jumped significantly in 2016 and then rose even more sharply in 2017. Combined with vacancy rates across the city that have hovered below two per cent the last two years, it’s causing rents to rise at rates well above inflation and minimum wage increases. Tenants are finding themselves in difficult situations, reno-victed and then priced out. It’s causing hardship for seniors on fixed incomes, students, single parents, you name it. Nanaimo has been a relatively affordable place to live for so long that the pace of change is enough to make heads spin.

The City of Nanaimo, by moving along the affordable housing strategy toward adoption, shows a desire to be a leader on the file. Most B.C. communities, based on proximity to Vancouver and other factors, are dealing with housing affordability issues to some extent and all are coming up with ideas at the same time.

We can hope for and expect some leadership from other levels of government but there are other ways, through development permitting and massaging of zoning, that we can try to provide greater breadth of solutions.

We don’t have an affordable housing strategy yet, but now that we have a discussion paper, we hope the discussion starts. As we build Nanaimo in different directions, we have to be building, at the same time, solutions to keeping our city an affordable place to rent and buy, and live.

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