Affordable housing moving forward in Pemberton 

Affordable housing is officially on the books in Pemberton as council received its first draft of a strategy that's been in the works for months.

A draft of the Affordable Housing Strategy for the Village of Pemberton was presented to council Oct. 6. It outlines a series of goals the municipality is carrying out in order to provide more attainable housing for people who can't buy houses in the current market.

The strategy's central mission is to "create a mix of rental, ownership and non-market housing options to meet the diverse and evolving needs of Pemberton residents." It comes in response to increasing worries about the affordability of housing in Pemberton, which has been impacted by increased demand in neighbouring communities like Whistler.

Pemberton Mayor Jordan Sturdy said the strategy will now be put out to the public for comment.

"There was some discussion of the practical nature of the suggestions, looking for the low-cost, low-hanging fruit, the things that can be done that are relatively simple and easy to accomplish," he said of Tuesday's meeting.

"I think what was also notable, if you look... at the list of short, medium and long-term priorities... most of the priorities are already under way and will be in the updated Official Community Plan."

Section 2.1.5 of the strategy defines affordable housing as making up about 30 per cent of one's income, whether alone, as a single parent or a married couple.

It estimates that married couples earning a median household income of $68,500 could afford monthly rent of $1,710; single parent families could afford up to $1,060 per month; and one-person households could afford up to $910 for rent.

Where long-term mortgages are concerned, the strategy estimates that married couples earning the median income could afford a home priced at $297,000 with a 10 per cent down payment, while single parent families could afford a home at about $156,000 and one-person households a unit priced at $124,000.

Some of the factors cited that impact housing affordability include physical and topographical constraints on land such as floodplains, the Agricultural Land Reserve, steep slopes and soil/bedrock conditions, as can often be found in the Pemberton Valley.

Other factors include a limited housing supply, which was identified by 40 per cent of respondents in an affordable housing survey this past summer, as well as high housing costs in relation to personal incomes and competition from investment or second home purchasers.

Though he's committed to seeing affordable housing in Pemberton, Sturdy said he's aware of the challenges involved in development within the community and he's not looking to create more hurdles by prioritizing affordable homes.

"I think there are a number of things that can be done to help," he said. "We have to be very cautious about adding additional costs to development so let's look at how we can find opportunity to lower these costs."

Though the study lays out a definition of affordable housing, Sturdy sees affordability as offering a range of housing options, rather than what it takes out of one's income.

"It really depends on what your income is," he said.

Other motions at the meeting saw Pemberton council approve $1,000 for a lunch program at Signal Hill Elementary School for students who arrive at school without a breakfast or a lunch to eat.

Council also received construction updates on the Pemberton Creek Bridge and the One Mile Lake Trail Project. The bridge, a pedestrian crossing over Pemberton Creek, encountered some delays related to weather and supply of decking materials. The project was ready for final inspection on Oct. 2.

Work on the trail project, meanwhile, began on Sept. 21 and aggregate will soon be moved on to the remainder of the trail. It's expected to come in under budget.



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