While large metropolitan areas such as Greater Vancouver often steal the spotlight as the epicentre of the province’s affordable housing crisis, it’s not an issue confined by municipal boundaries.
In fact, in 2017, the city of Merritt, B.C., about three hours east of Vancouver, had a vacancy rate of 2.2 per cent, lower than the national 2.4 average, according to the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC).
The municipality’s need for affordable housing caught the attention of the Anhart Housing Community, non-profit society committed to preventing homelessness, which intends to build two buildings with enough space for 76 units in the heart of the Merritt.
If its development permit is approved, Anhart expects the property to be open for rentals within two years.
Anhart project manager Larissa Muir says getting people housed is crucial because it can provide a broader impact on the local community.
“When people are housed they feel safe, they feel secure,” said Muir.
“That then has a considerable impact on people’s mental and physical health that can then trickle down into economic impacts in the community.”
Although it’s now branching out into smaller Canadian towns, Anhart began its first housing operations on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside securing low-income rental units for those at risk of homelessness.
In Merritt, to determine whether there was a need for affordable housing, the organization conducted a survey of 400 people.
Muir notes that almost 50 per cent of respondents expressed complete dissatisfaction with their current accommodations. She says respondents complained of living in old, rundown rentals.
“It’s the aging rental stock that hasn’t been maintained,” said Muir to Daybreak Kamloops host Shelley Joyce.
She says the survey showed that both the senior and student population have had difficulty finding housing they can afford and which also meets certain requirements, such as accessibility.
Once completed, the housing to be built by Anhart, would be targeted at renters with an annual income below $40,000.
The organization has applied for financing through the CMHC to develop a 1.6 hectare property at 3757 De Wolf way, Merritt B.C.
Muir says the team has already had meetings with both the current and the previous mayor, as well as a number of other stakeholders.
Next, Anhart will apply for a development permit and present its plans to city council.
You can listen to the full interview below;