By ROY WOOD
Osoyoos Mayor Sue McKortoff sounded a hopeful chord this morning about the future of rental housing in the town after questions from area MLA Linda Larson on the availability of temporary accommodation.
Larson initially asked for an update from council about the success of the temporary workers’ camp constructed in the spring near the intersection of Highway 3 and 45th Street.
She said a delegation of pub owners had complained to her that the 49-unit bunkhouse complex was “not pleasant inside … and still not enough.”
Planning director Gina MacKay pointed out that the bunkhouse project was paid for mainly by three major hotels and was intended to provide housing for their employees. “It wasn’t (built) to provide additional accommodation for other people who come to work in the tourism industry.”
MacKay continued, “I think it has been a successful project. In a recent meeting with Glen Harris from the Watermark, he indicated it has been successful although they could fill it twice again.”
The town will continue to look at housing project opportunities in the community as part of the “housing needs report,” which will feed into the upcoming update to the town’s Official Community Plan, MacKay said.
McKortoff pointed out that one local hotel, Spirit Ridge, has rented a 10-unit motel in the town for its workers.
“I think it’s really good that people are trying to find solutions. I’ve seen a lot of ads on In The Loop … from people who have decided that maybe their basement suites could be fixed up a little bit and rented out,” she said.
“I know there are several restaurants and businesses who have purchased a motel unit and rented (it to staff) or they’ve purchased a condo. One has purchased a house … for four people.
“Businesses are looking at how they can provide accommodation for their workers. And that needs to be part of the solution for sure,” said McKortoff.
MacKay pointed out further that development applications are expected soon for the second phase of the Meadowlark development, which will include addition market rental housing. As well, she said, the Peanut Pond development, which is working its way through the approvals process, includes up to 19 rental units.
“It’s a multi-facetted challenge in our community and it needs to have several different solutions,” she said.
Larson said she appreciates the work being done, but raised the issue of developers being reluctant to enter the rental market. “Because there are so many things in place now that support the renter, there is a reluctance on the part of lot of … developers and owners to rental.”
The MLA encouraged the town to use its regulatory and incentive levers to encourage builders to create temporary rental housing that would work for seasonal employees in the summer months and for snowbirds in the winter. “Even if it’s just a handful of units in a development, it will make a difference in your community,” she said.