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Housing affordability forum evokes emotional responses

A housing affordability forum hosted by the Town of Creston on Wednesday evening to gather and hear the public’s opinions and ideas on improving the price of housing in the valley finished with an emotional question-and-answer period.

Chief administrative officer Michael Moore started the forum by presenting information gathered over past years.

Creston’s population saw an increase of 11 per cent from 2006 to 2016, with numbers from the RDCK housing needs assessment report showing a three per cent increase in house ownership and a 27 per cent rise in rentals.

With affordable housing being defined as less than 30 per cent of a household’s before-tax income, numbers from 2006-16 show a 30 per cent increase in unaffordable residences based on a median income of households in 2015.

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Moore says although the numbers are not recent, they have no reason to believe it’s been getting better. Rather, it’s most likely getting worse.

In response, the Town of Creston introduced a residential revitalization tax exemption that is meant to provide an incentive to build new rental units.

After a brief word from Margeret Durnin with the Creston Valley Community Housing Society, who detailed the ongoing work to better housing affordability in Creston, Moore opened the floor.

Questions and concerns raised by the attendees included the price of building materials, the lack of land available to build, and the current price of rentals.

One man demanded an explanation for what he called outrageous prices for concrete. Later, a person tearfully explained they were unable to afford their rent and were afraid they would end up homeless.

Afterward, Moore directed those interested in applying for the residential revitalization tax exemption to stop by their Let’s Talk Creston website.

Due to the response received at the meeting, town staff recommended to council that an committee on affordable housing be formed. Staff will develop the terms of reference for this committee and advertise for committee membership in the coming weeks.

“It’s a complex issue that can’t be solved overnight or by any one organization,” Moore said in a news release. “We need housing that everyone can afford. We need land, we need builders, we need investors. Most of all, we need the community to work together.”

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