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BC Housing hopes to end zero vacancy rate in Nelson

Nelson currently has a zero per cent vacancy rate, causing a deterrent to people looking to move, study or work in the area.

Representatives from BC Housing provided a presentation to city council on how providing additional housing for community members, through continued collaboration, would align with the city’s plan and strategies as well as the official community plan.

Operations officer Rachel McGeachie says cost of living in the province is extremely high, but in Nelson the rate for a rental is so high it is one of the contributing factors to the housing crisis.

“We noticed 37 per cent of [residents in] the City of Nelson rent their homes, while 36 per cent are spending more than 30 per cent of their income on housing,” McGeachie says. “Thirty per cent is typically what should be the benchmark on what people should be spending on housing, whether it is a mortgage or renting.”

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She says the problem is Nelson is substantially higher than anywhere else in the interior which is why providing affordable housing is paramount for the city.

“Eighty eight people are experiencing homelessness, and that is not including hidden homelessness,” she says. “One third of that are over the age of 55, and Nelson has the second highest rate of homelessness in the Interior.”

She says hidden homelessness is usually associated with people who are “couch surfing” or living in cars.

According to the presentation there are approximately 245 families living in subsidized housing, 31 families using the rental assistance program, 90 seniors supported by Shelter Aid for Elderly Renters, and 20 low-income individuals supported by Canada Housing Benefit. 

Councilor Kate Tait asked how this compares to other communities in the region.

“I am going to assume we have 245 households living in subsidized housing and our census has 4,950 households in Nelson,” she said. “Would you rate that as comparable to Trail or Castlegar?”

However, no response was given.

Currently Nelson is home to two buildings that host low and moderate income families, and one which supports seniors as well as people with disabilities. 

BC Housing is hoping with a new budget of $4.2 billion they will be able to provide investments in housing for students, Indigenous people, middle income families, complex care, and supportive housing.

(CORRECTION: A previous version indicated the budget was $4.2 million but the corrected provincial budget is $4.2 billion.)

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