Skip to content

District of Squamish needs to double housing output each year: report

A document presented to council states the town needs to drastically increase its ability to build housing in order to keep up with its ballooning population.
High resolution image of post and beams lifted by a crane at a new construction site

A report presented to District council says the town needs to double its housing output in order to accommodate its rapid growth.

Squamish needs about 6,800 more units of housing by 2031 if it wants to maintain its income and housing diversity, according to the Squamish Housing Needs Report, which was prepared by contractor CitySpaces Consulting.

Spreading the numbers over a decade, the numbers in the report state that from 2021 to 2031, 685 units need to be completed each year.

That’s roughly double the town’s latest output, as the report says census figures state that between 2016 and 2021, an average of 386 dwelling units were created each year.

These findings were presented by municipal staff to council on April 11.

The report was required by the province, and, as a result, uses methodologies prescribed by senior levels of government.

Of the 6,800 new units, 43% will need to have three or more bedrooms, and 24% of the new units will need to be within the reach of households earning less than $45,000 per year.

The report estimates the population could jump by as much as 24,000 new residents by 2036.

Julia Bahen of City Spaces Consulting said Squamish is facing exceptionally high amounts of growth.

The report states the town’s annual growth rate is about three times the provincial average.

“We double checked the growth numbers like five times, because we couldn't believe it was that high,” said Bahen.

She noted that stopping development may not necessarily be the answer to this situation.

“We saw in the Lower Mainland Port Moody take a pretty strong anti-development stance between 2016 and 2021,” said Bahen.

“Their population growth declined somewhat, but housing challenges really continued to intensify by limiting growth and development.”

District staff said the findings suggest it’s necessary to create more housing, faster.

“There's going to have to be some sort of next step, because one of the results is showing that what we've historically produced in terms of housing is not nearly enough,” said Jonas Velaniskis, the municipality’s director of planning.

”So something has to change. And I think as one of the next steps, we're going to have to consider what is it that we need to change to deliver housing faster.”

Municipal planner Matt Gunn said that current zoning allows for roughly an additional 4,400 apartments, 1,300 townhouses, 20 duplexes and 35 single family detached houses.

“These properties have adopted zoning that allow for residential development,” said Gunn. “However, construction of these units will span several years. Many units are not expected to be completed in the eight-year timeframe of the housing unit needs estimates.”

He added, however, that there are also a number of lands within the growth management boundary under consideration for development that are not included in those numbers.

Velaniskis said that staff used zoning capacity as the measure because it’s unreliable to try calculating when housing will come online.

When an area is rezoned, there’s no guarantee as to when the housing will be built, he said.

“It doesn't provide any assurance that those units will be created within a certain amount of time,” said Velaniskis.

“When projects go through a rezoning process, they can take between one year, and, as [an example], the Cheekeye Fan rezoning has been in the works for 10 years. So there's just no reliability in those numbers, and the numbers change themselves. The housing mix and the amount of housing evolves.”

Once zoning is done, it’s out of the municipality’s hands and in the hands of the developer as to when the housing will be built, he added.

Among other things, the report confirms what many people in Squamish already have experienced.

It states the vacancy rate is below 1% and the proportion of renters living in overcrowded or unaffordable housing has increased over the last five years.

Housing costs now exceed what most low and moderate income households can afford.

As of January 2023, 25% of households spend more than 30% of their income on housing.

The average condo costs $581,728 as of January 2023, and the average one-bedroom purpose-built rental unit is $1,421 as of October 2022.

There is also a limited amount of options for seniors, along with a growing need for seniors’ housing.

The report continues that there is a lack of new townhouse development in Squamish, aside from Garibaldi Springs, and housing is needed with higher levels of supports for complex mental health and substance use challenges. 


push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks