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Letter: Affordable housing solutions needed now

'If there was a cap on the dollar amount of rent that was permitted to be charged by a landlord, the result would be a fair and competitive market'
With the sale of their rental home looming and suitable replacement accommodation virtually non-existent in the valley, a Pemberton mom says it's time for governments to lean on new measures to solve the Sea to Sky's housing crisis.

This letter was sent to MLA Jordan Sturdy and Pemberton Mayor Mike Richman and shared with Pique.

My family and I moved to the Pemberton Valley in 2016 and have settled into one of the most friendly, welcoming and beautiful villages in British Columbia. Despite having two incomes, my husband and I are priced out of the real estate market in our province. Home ownership is simply not in the cards for us, and we understand as renters we do not have the same level of home security a homeowner would.

We have been informed the current owners of the home we rent are interested in selling the home this spring or early summer. With the lack of properties on the market, this sale will likely occur faster than we can find new accommodation. We are faced with the stark reality that we may have to relocate due to a lack of rental housing. This is heartbreaking for us and our six-year-old daughter, and we are only one of dozens of families in the same situation.

I respectfully request you take a few minutes to search “Rentals in Pemberton” on the internet. There are currently only two listings on Craigslist, one that has been flagged for potential fraud in the Elements building, and another for a one-bedroom suite for$1,950/month. Now I’d like you to search “Pemberton” on Airbnb. You will see almost 300 properties available, including areas north of Pemberton and south to Whistler. The appeal of Airbnb for a homeowner looking to make a good income by renting their suites nightly is understandable. There is less wear and tear on their units, they get to host visitors to our region and share what makes this valley so special. However, the amount of rental stock that has been removed from our region is astonishing.

People want to move here, raise their families, be solid members of the community, work in our businesses and support our local economy. But the lack of rental housing is restricting our local businesses’ ability to recruit and retain staff. Without people to work in our insurance agency, drugstore, and other local [shops]; our village will continue to see service reduced and businesses close.

I applaud the Village of Pemberton for bringing in a short-term rental business license requirement but suggest more could be done to reward homeowners that choose to make their suites available to long-term tenants. A reduction in their annual property tax would be a great financial incentive for those choosing to be part of the solution to our lack of rental housing.

The rising cost of available rental units in our village has risen dramatically over the last five years. When we first arrived, two- bedroom suites could be rented for $1,500/ month. The cost of a two-bedroom suite has risen to $2,000 to $2,500/month on the low end of the scale, increasing substantially to an eye-watering $5,000/month or higher if you include Whistler in your search for a new home. There is no provincial cap on what landlords are permitted to charge for rent, and I respectfully suggest this is something that can be explored by both municipal and provincial levels of government. If there was a cap on the dollar amount of rent that was permitted to be charged by a landlord, the result would be a fair and competitive market. This cap could be based on each bedroom per suite, to a maximum of $1,000/ bedroom. This would immediately alleviate the grossly inflated rents seen in parts of our region.

The Harrow Road affordable housing project is an exciting future prospect for families like mine, and kudos to both levels of government for working together to make affordable rentals a priority for Pemberton. I respectfully and strongly urge you to take my recommendations of: a decrease in annual property taxes for homeowners renting to long-term tenants, and a cap on the amount of rent that a landlord is permitted to charge, to your council and legislature for debate. It is time to implement new measures to begin to solve our housing crisis. These suggestions may be unpopular with a large portion of those who elected you to office. It is my hope that you see the need for change and bravely make a stand for the future of our community. It may be too little, too late for me and my family but I remain hopeful for our future here.

Tania Chiasson // Pemberton