Many folks talk about Affordable Housing. This is a national issue and not just unique to Canmore however it is exacerbated here. The cost of housing here is on par with Vancouver and Toronto.
But we would be remiss to not talk about the full equation: Housing, Cost of Goods and Income.
Housing: Canmore, in reality, has lots of housing but unfortunately much of it is vacant much of the year and underutilized. We’ve all seen streets with zero activity. Neighbourhoods with little vibrancy. Houses that never have the lights on.
Meanwhile, demand for housing is skyrocketing for both ownership and rental markets. Locals are being squeezed out of the town they love. How many of your friends and family have moved away to greener pastures? This ripple effect is killing the vitality of our community.
The Town has, at this time, limited tools to address these problems but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do everything we can, including lobbying the provincial and federal governments for the fundamental change that we need to save our town (and many towns like us)
I am a strong supporter of a Vacancy tax. If you can afford to have a second (third…etc) home sit vacant for the majority of the year without substantially contributing to the local vibrancy and economy the least we should expect is a significant tax. A tax that at the end of the day discourages this type of hoarding.
Conversely, if you do rent out your home on a long term basis I think there should be a rebate for that commitment. If you run the numbers (and I have many times) being a landlord isn’t financially attractive on a month to month basis in Canmore. Even though many rail against the cost of rentals the cost of ownership is significantly more usually. Let’s help out if we can by lowering the carrying costs for landlords and help make it more attractive to rent out your property.
Cost of Goods: Did you know that about 4,200 locals are on the Canmore Affordability Program? In a town of roughly 14,500 about 30% of people are living below the poverty line. Many businesses are offering discounts to those that qualify but many are unaware of this program. A local’s discount for those that need it should be more widely accessible and encouraged.
Living Wages: Did you know that a living wage in Canmore is $30/hour up from $22 in the previous study? If you are not making $60,000 per year in Canmore you are falling farther behind every year. So many of our vital community workers are not anywhere near that wage. Not even close. We need to encourage businesses to make that investment in their people. I am a business owner and I understand the difficulties in this endeavour. But what are our alternatives? Retraining staff every three months? Not being able to hire anyone at all? Closing our doors more frequently? We can’t keep exploiting workers with the excuse of “but you get to live in the mountains”. That phrase shouldn’t hold water any more. It is insulting at best.
Canmore is an in demand destination. Let’s start pricing our products and labour accordingly. Anything less is selling ourselves and our community short. Anything less erodes our community fabric. We can and must do better.