Laura Wilson has enjoyed living in the Okanagan for the past four years.
“We love it here,” she told Global News. “Especially the weather and the ability to just get out and just walk to a hiking trail or the parks or the lake.”
But Wilson said her family, including her husband and two children, are being forced to move out of the province.
“It’s sad, actually, that people have to uproot their children and their whole lives and leave a community,” she said.
Wilson said the skyrocketing cost of housing is what’s behind the difficult decision to leave the Southern Interior.
“We’re giving it up for financial stability,” she said. “We were given notice that our landlord would like their house back.
“And so, after searching and searching for something affordable that our family could live in comfortably, we realized that that wasn’t going to happen.”
The family is moving to Edmonton, where they’ve purchased a townhouse at a fraction of what it would cost in the Central Okanagan.
“We paid $172,000 which is cheap,” Wilson said. “In the Okanagan, you can’t even buy a one-bedroom condo in Kelowna for that price.”
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A senior economist with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Alex Hemingway, said this family’s story is not unique.
“Everyone has seen around us housing prices skyrocket and that comes with consequences,” he said.
Those consequences aren’t only for people relocating for financial reasons, but also for the communities they leave behind.
“It means that our communities are becoming more exclusionary based on income and wealth, and that’s not the way to organize the city,” Hemingway said.
“We’re being deprived of the talents of those people in our cities. And, of course, they’re being deprived of the opportunity to choose to where to live.”
According to the Association of Interior Realtors, the benchmark price for a single-family home in Kelowna is around $1.13 million.
The median price for a two-bedroom rental is $2,300 a month, according to a Canadian Rent Report by Zumper, a housing rental company.
“Kelowna and the Okanagan have been one of the places over the past couple of years where prices have gotten out of control,” Hemingway said.
Hemingway added that a housing supply shortage is to blame as is a lack of government investment in affordable housing.
“We have not had enough direct public investment in dedicated affordable housing for many, many years, ” Hemingway said. “We have actually seen that investment increase over the past few years, but we’re dealing with a backlog of need and underinvestment that goes back decades.”
He said solutions must include a massive expansion of investment in dedicated, affordable housing, but also some leniency on the part of municipal governments.
“In most of our cities, apartments are not allowed to be built on most of the residential land, even though that’s the most affordable type of housing that exists today,” he said.
“That drives up the price of the land on which you can build housing, those very scarce parcels where you’re allowed to build apartments. The price of that is driven up by in part by exclusionary zoning, so that’s something very important that needs to be dealt with at the municipal level.”
While Wilson said she’ll miss the Okanagan and everything it has to offer, she’s looking forward to more disposable income every month.
“Oh, a lot more,” she said. “I think at the end of my budget, it looks like we’ll have about a $700 surplus.”
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