Squamish-Lillooet Regional District kicks off housing needs and demand study

Public engagement process underway

The Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) is undertaking a new study to gain a deeper understanding of its housing needs and investigate potential solutions to any lack of accommodation.

According to SLRD board chair Tony Rainbow, the regional district is facing the same type of housing challenges that Whistler and Squamish know all too well.

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"If you look at Britannia Beach, there are problems there for people finding reasonable rental accommodation, and there are certainly problems for employers in the area, like Furry Creek Golf Course," said Rainbow.

"There are problems with employers finding places for their employees to live, whether it's within the bounds of the District of Squamish or whether it's outside ... We need a better supply of affordable housing."

The SLRD is therefore undertaking a housing needs and demand study, which is being funded through the British Columbia Rural Dividend Fund.

The study is a requirement under new provincial legislation and must be completed by all local governments by April 2022.

Rainbow is hopeful the study will answer some key questions, such as, "What is available in terms of areas for development? And what can reasonably be put into those areas that aligns with the official community plan and the regional growth strategy?"

The SLRD needs to be discerning with where it looks to add density, he said.

"We are not looking to find land and put up developments along the highway, for example," said Rainbow.

When it comes to creating more affordable options, Rainbow said he is pleased with new provincial legislation that allows municipalities and regional districts to zone for rental-only housing.

That said, the regional district can't undertake some of the more ambitious projects seen in some municipalities, as it doesn't have the land at its disposal to facilitate them, he said.

"We don't have the same opportunities that a municipality has, mostly because we don't have any land," Rainbow explained. "If we had great sources of land then perhaps we could be a little more determinant when looking at what could be done with that land.

"We have access to certain quarters of Crown land, but whether that's an appropriate place [for development] is another matter."

As part of the engagement process for the study, the SLRD will be conducting stakeholder interviews and holding a number of community workshops; SLRD staff and consultants will be on hand to provide an overview of the planning process and highlight success stories from other regions, according to an SLRD release.

Rainbow encourages SLRD residents to attend the workshops.

"It gives people an opportunity to express their views, and it gives us an opportunity to hear that [feedback]," said Rainbow.

The community workshops schedule is as follows:

•Thursday, Oct. 3, at the Britannia Mine Museum from 7 to 8:30 p.m.

•Saturday, Oct. 5, at the Gold Bridge Community Club from 10 to 11:30 a.m.

•Saturday, Oct. 5, at Tyax Lodge from 2 to 3:30 p.m.

•Sunday, Oct. 6, at the Lillooet REC Centre from 2 to 3:30 p.m.

•Wednesday, Oct. 16, at Pemberton and District Community Centre from 7 to 8:30 p.m.

The online survey will launch Thursday, Oct. 3 and will be shared on the SLRD's website and Facebook page.

Read the original story at Pique Newsmagazine here.

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