Upcoming panel discussion will explore growing affordable housing crisis

The International Day for the Eradication of Poverty will bring the discussion of the growing affordable housing crisis to campus as TRUSU plans to mark the day with a panel discussion on Oct. 17.

The TRUSU Equity Committee will host the panel featuring Terry Kading from TRU, Jennifer Casorso from the City of Kamloops, Kim Galloway from ASK Wellness, Kelly Fawcett from Kelson Group and Audrey Shaw from the Kamloops Real Estate Association on the topic of affordable housing.

Audrey Shaw says that affordable housing is relative to the community and what you compare them to.

“When you look at Vancouver, a lot of people think we are very affordable compared to them,” Shaw said.

Although the Kamloops housing and rental market is far less expensive than Vancouver, in Kamloops the average home still costs $408,000.

“When you look at wages and the overall picture, affordable housing is still a huge struggle in Kamloops even with the prices that we have,” Shaw said.

Jennifer Casorso the Social Development Supervisor for the City of Kamloops says that her work day is spent helping to facilitate more affordable housing in the Kamloops community.

“Just like most communities in the country right now, there’s a significant affordable housing shortage. We know in Kamloops our vacancy is close to zero and when you start breaking that down into affordability and what people have to pay, there is a serious shortage for folks that are lower income,” Casorso said.

The lack of affordable homes affects not only single parents, working class people and seniors, but also students.

“We are starting to hear stories of students that are renting out closets, almost, to be able to afford a place, which is not acceptable,” Shaw said.

The lack of available housing for people of lower income can result in a variety of scenarios. Casorso says some may resort to living with multiple people and others may resort to couch surfing with family and friends.

“In some cases, people end up homeless and on the streets,” Casorso said.

According to Casorso, there’s multiple things that the municipality is involved in to try to help with the lack of affordable housing.

“What the city can do is support policies that allow for different types of housing to happen, whether that’s zoning or supporting affordable housing models that look at some form of tax incentive to non-profit organizations. As well as providing land, we’ve been designating certain parts of the land in the city to help with facilitating housing. We’ve also become a facilitator of conversation with the nonprofit sector and the developing community,” Casorso said.

Casorso added that the provincial and federal governments are primarily in charge of the investment in affordable housing.

“One of our goals as local government is to advocate for what our community needs,” Casorso said.

Both Casorso and Shaw stressed the importance of education and conversation as one way to start fixing the affordable housing problem.

“Keep the conversation going, keep the ideas for everybody that’s apart of the picture, keep lobbying the appropriate levels of government, keep pushing forward for affordable housing,” Shaw said.

The discussion will take place at 6 p.m. on Oct. 17 in the TRUSU Lecture Hall.