A fire at a homeless camp in Polson Park was extinguished by Vernon firefighters early Monday Feb. 8. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)

Need for all housing identified by Vernon Mayor

‘As Mayor of Vernon, the last thing I want to see is a moratorium on supportive housing projects’

  • Feb. 23, 2021 9:30 a.m.

Like many communities, affordable housing is a pressing issue in Vernon. The recently completed Regional Housing Needs Assessment identifies the urgent need to add more affordable housing units to the North Okanagan. Vernon’s rental vacancy rate is hovering around one per cent – the lowest it has been in more than a decade (according to an October 2020 report from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation).

The provision of housing for all community members is a key concern for local government. So how is Vernon responding to the needs and demands of a diverse and growing community?

Council’s Strategic Plan 2019-22 has specific goals and a commitment to add more affordable housing in Vernon through local and provincial partnerships:

  • Create accessible and attainable housing for families with annual income below $70,000
  • Develop affordable housing partnerships, including the use of City lands
  • Continue to partner with BC Housing, not-for-profits and the development community on affordable housing, including the use of City-owned land

Through a solution-based, collaborative approach, Vernon has increased its affordable housing inventory by more than 400 units since 2008, with a mix of affordable units, supported housing and permanent shelter beds. Vernon has also worked with numerous private sector developers to see approximately 570 new rental units enter the market in the same period.

Currently, another seven affordable housing projects and two supported housing projects (including 24-7 staff support) are in progress, which will add 297 new units to the community. These projects provide essential housing for lower-income seniors and families, safe housing for women and children transitioning out of domestic violence situations, affordable housing for adults, and surety of basic shelter for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness.

Our community has a need, as clearly demonstrated by the hundreds of applicants on current waitlists for affordable housing. Therefore, we are taking specific and strategic steps to fulfil that need in a responsible and sustainable manner.

READ MORE: Finding a home ‘impossible’ in Vernon

But we are not doing this alone.

Accessible, attainable and supported housing solutions in Vernon are only made possible through our collaborative work with BC Housing, which has provided funding to groups such as the Canadian Mental Health Association, Vernon and District Community Land Trust, Vernon Pensioners Accommodation Society, Archway Society for Domestic Peace, Habitat for Humanity, Vernon Native Housing Society, and Turning Points Collaborative Society. These groups manage affordable housing. More than 2,000 Vernon residents benefit from the efforts of these service agencies.

Since Friday morning, more than 90 heartfelt letters have been received by my office, from a wide variety of professionals, concerned citizens, and those close to BC Housing initiatives. These letters and calls support the availability, operation and positive impact of supportive housing on our citizens, our businesses and our city.

As Mayor of Vernon, the last thing I want to see is a moratorium on supportive housing projects. At some point, local motels that have been used as shelter accommodation during the COVID-19 pandemic response will transition back to tourism. This will force individuals who are without housing back on to the street and into our parks and downtown core.

READ MORE: Vernon councillor ready to refocus ‘too broad’ housing audit motion

Any delays in supportive housing projects would have a significant impact on downtown and area businesses and the wider community. Without these new supportive housing units, we are likely to see a surge in new homeless individuals and added pressure on the Bylaw Department, the RCMP, and our healthcare system to manage and respond to increased numbers of people sleeping outside, who would otherwise be housed in the new units.

BC Housing is a vital partner and resource in making affordable and supported housing available in Vernon. The organization has specific criteria for its supportive housing buildings, including 24-7 staffing, and is geared towards people who are experiencing or may be at risk of homelessness, who require support with mental health and or substance abuse, and who need supported services to maintain a successful tenancy.

In Vernon, supportive housing is provided by Turning Points Collaborative Society (TPCS) at My Place. TPCS has supplemented its services by adding a community support worker, a health navigator/counsellor, in-house recovery groups and on-site pharmacy services to assist the residents of My Place.

Through consultation with area residents and businesses, we are advised that the neighbourhood near My Place “improved in the past year,” and that the majority of local businesses would “support more supportive housing in the community.” This is positive and encouraging feedback.

The facts are clear. We need more affordable and supported housing in Vernon, not less. And working with BC Housing to access vital financial resources and housing supports is how we take positive steps forward in filling the needs of our residents to build a stronger, more resilient, and more productive society.

Victor Cumming

Mayor of Vernon

READ MORE: Homeless, senior and starter housing builds in Vernon

affordable housingHousing

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

A fire at a homeless camp in Polson Park was extinguished by Vernon firefighters early Monday Feb. 8. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)

Just Posted

The Okanagan’s first virtual wedding fair will be held Saturday, March 27. {Paul Rodgers photo)
Okanagan to host virtual wedding fair

Okanagan wine country is No. 1 destination for weddings - online event set for March 27

Butter and sourdough bread is shown at a house in Vernon, B.C. on Wednesday, February 24, 2021. A Quebec dairy farmers’ group is calling on milk producers to stop feeding palm oil or its derivatives to livestock as controversy churns over how these supplements affect the consistency of butter. (THE CANADIAN PRESS - Jesse Johnston)
Poll: Care to spread your feelings on butter?

Reports of hard butter have rattled the Canadian dairy industry

A dose of COVID-19 vaccine is prepared at a vaccination clinic in Montreal’s Olympic Stadium on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
39 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health region

The total number of cases in the region since the pandemic began is now at 7,334

Princeton has seen a 22 per cent drop in drug overdose fatalities in 2020. (File photo)
While B.C. overdose deaths soar, Princeton made a recovery in 2020

Between 2018 and 2020, eight Princeton residents died of suspected overdose.

Send your letter to the editor via email to news@summerlandreview.com. Please included your first and last name, address, and phone number.
LETTER: Options available for medical care

Telephone and online methods allow people to contact doctors

A health worker holds a vial of AstraZeneca vaccine to be administered to members of the police at a COVID-19 vaccination center in Mainz, Germany, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. The federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate, start with the vaccination of police officers in internal police vaccination centers. (Andreas Arnold/dpa via AP)
B.C. officials to unveil new details of COVID vaccination plan Monday

Seniors and health-care workers who haven’t gotten their shot are next on the list

(Contributed)
Kelowna flight potentially exposed to COVID-19

Third case on a local flight this month, compared to 14 through January

Vernon Search and Rescue, with help from the Air Rescue One helicopter out of Wildcat Helicopters in Kelowna, and Central Okanagan Search and Rescue, were able to transport an injured snowmobiler to Vernon Regional Airport, where he was loaded into an ambulance and taken to Vernon Jubilee Hospital with a serious, painful back injury. (Facebook photo)
Okanagan helicopter rescue teams called to retrieve injured sledder at Greystokes

Vernon and Central Okanagan Search and Rescue help load injured man into waiting helicopter

An investigation is underway after a man was shot and killed by Tofino RCMP in Opitsaht. (Black Press Media file photo)
Man shot and killed by RCMP near Tofino, police watchdog investigating

Investigation underway by Independent Investigations Office of British Columbia.

B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver on Tuesday December 11, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C.’s compromise on in-person worship at three churches called ‘absolutely unacceptable’

Would allow outdoor services of 25 or less by Langley, Abbotsford and Chilliwack churches

Wills Hodgkinson, 10, and his mom Neeley Brimer get ready to battle round three of cancer. The community of Penticton has his back. (Submitted)
Community raises $21K to help Penticton boy battle third round of cancer

Okanoggin Barbers held the fundraiser on Saturday for 10-year-old Wills Hodgkinson

Baldy Mountain Resort was shut down on Saturday after a fatal workplace accident. (Baldy Mountain picture)
UPDATE: 70-year-old man killed in workplace accident at Baldy Mountain

The mountain closed on Saturday but has partially re-opened today (Sunday)

Jasmine and Gwen Donaldson are part of the CAT team working to reduce stigma for marginalized groups in Campbell River. Photo by Marc Kitteringham, Campbell River Mirror
Jasmine’s story: Stigma can be the hardest hurdle for those overcoming addiction

Recovering B.C. addict says welcome, connection and community key for rebuilding after drug habit

Most Read