Lack of affordable housing reaches crisis levels in Kamloops

By Tanya Cronin
February 10, 2016 - 5:10pm Updated: February 10, 2016 - 5:49pm

KAMLOOPS  — It has become a serious crisis - the lack of affordable housing in Kamloops has reached a level not seen before.

The number of homeless and working poor has increased, and over the last several months shelters and non-profit organizations have seen more and more people turning for help.

Agencies like Ask Wellness say rental rates are simply too expensive and there hasn't been any construction of affordable units in our community in quite some time and that  is leaving people living on a low-income with nowhere to go.

WATCH ABOVE: Full story by Reporter Tanya Cronin

"I was hunkered down underneath the red bridge with a big blanket and sleeping bag and I stayed there for 2 nights, I wound up with pneumonia," says Bradley Ziebart.

These winter months have been a tough road for Bradley Ziebart. After living in the same apartment for ten years, circumstances have changed and he's now searching for affordable housing. 

"It has to be some place where I have control of my environment and I can't do that based on the income I have. When I'm not working I'm on a PWD disability and that brings in $900 a month," says Ziebart.

With rental rates at a high, and bills to pay, that doesn't leave Bradley with much money to live on. Fortunately, with the help of the Ask Wellness Society, right now this recovering alcoholic is staying at the Star Lodge Motel on Columbia Street. But he only has until the end of March to find a permanent place to live.  

"That is my stress right now, finding that with the high prices you're going to have to pay even for a bachelor and you don't have any furniture or anything. Got to find something furnished that isn't infested with bed bugs because that's a huge problem right now."

Finding affordable housing has reached crisis levels in Kamloops. With a growing homeless problem, demand is at an all time high, and those living on low income are struggling to get by. 

"If they're on a disability, they're receiving $906 per month, $375 of that for shelter. Unless it's a subsidized apartment by the province, there are no units in this city that get remotely close to that," says Bob Hughes, Executive Director of Ask Wellness Society.

Ask Wellness is working diligently to keep up with the demand. The agency manages 200 apartments in Kamloops and Merritt, but Bob Hughes says that's not enough. No new affordable units are being built, and rental rates are continuing to skyrocket. 

"Every index of living in our city and province is going up, the one thing we're not seeing is any kind of rise in income-assistance rates and even wages for those in the service sector that remain horrendously low, to try to address this issue." 

The agency is being forced to find more creative ways to get people housed. Partnering up with local motels and landlords. The Kelson Group works with Ask Wellness, keeping rental rates low at their building downtown located above Jade Garden Restaurant. Jason Fawcett says it'll take more availability on the market, to drive rental rates down.  

"Supply is part of the equation, the more supply the more options will be available for all individuals and that should create pressure on pricing for landlords, and it'll create some challenges to increase the rents if there's lots of other apartments available in the market," says Jason Fawcett, Vice-President, Kelson Group.

Rental rates range anywhere from $900 to $1300 a month in some areas, a price Bradley Ziebart just cannot afford. For the next month, he'll focus on finding a stable home, a safe environment and a place he can continue his recovery. 

"For me to go back to that is simply not feasible. It's not going to happen, and I refuse to let it happen. I really need clean housing," says Ziebart.

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