A recent study has ranked the Comox Valley as the fifth most unaffordable housing market in B.C.
The 15th Annual Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey recently came out, showing that the Valley and other B.C. markets’ housing prices are well in severely unaffordable levels.
The survey calculates communities’ level of affordability by dividing the median house price by the median annual gross household income before tax. This is a widely used method for evaluating housing prices.
Communities are given a numerical rating, called the median multiple, with anything 3.0 and under considered affordable and anything 5.1 and over considered severely unaffordable.
The Comox Valley has a median multiple of 7.9, just below Nanaimo (8.0), the Fraser Valley (8.2), Victoria (8.5) and Vancouver (12.6). Other B.C. communities rated severely unaffordable are Kelowna (7.0) and Chilliwack (6.7).
Courtenay Mayor Bob Wells says the Comox Valley continues to be a very desirable place to live and this is unfortunately reflected in the difficult housing prices.
“Houses over the last 15 years have gone up by four times their value when you look at their assessments and yet obviously wages haven’t necessarily gone up by four times,” he said. “That certainly brings a lot of pressure to bear.”
He adds there are many people who retire in the Comox Valley and questions what effect this has on the household income calculation in the study.
Roger Kishi, director of homeless & housing programs for the Wachiay Friendship Centre, says the results of the study are consistent with what he has been seeing in the Valley.
“The issue here in the Comox Valley is that yes, housing prices are very high and then the other issue is that the vacancy rate is still very low,” said Kishi. “Then the rents themselves are high where people are spending a significant amount of their monthly income just on housing.”
Kishi says there is work being done to alleviate the housing strain, but vacancy rates are still very low and housing costs continue to soar.
“We’re already in such a deep pit that filling it in and trying to get even to a level place is gonna take a lot of resources,” he said.
Currently in the City of Courtenay, there are two affordable housing projects on the go.
The Braidwood Housing Project on Braidwood Road is under construction and is expected to be completed in early 2019. The building will feature 28 studio apartments and six one-bedroom units, along with a caretaker’s suite. The application process recently began and Kishi says they are expecting to move in residents in March or April.
On Eighth Street, a supportive housing complex is also under construction with a completion date in late March. The project will contain 46 modular units to house those struggling with homelessness. Applications have been open for a couple weeks.
“These projects are a good start and there’s been some small things that have happened over the years so it’s not like nothing has happened,” said Kishi. “But we have a lot to catch up on before we can get ahead.”
Wells says while these two projects are in progress, the City of Courtenay will continue to push for more funding from the federal and provincial governments to find more solutions to the housing crisis.
“Even though we do have these two projects that are underway, we want to make sure that’s not where it ends, that we continue to push the issue and get as much money as we can to bring in more affordable housing,” said Wells.
Canada as a whole has a moderately unaffordable rating of 4.0 with Edmonton being the most affordable major market in the country with a rating of 3.6.
Vancouver’s 12.6 median multiple makes it the second most unaffordable market in the world, trailing only behind Hong Kong which has a median multiple of 20.9.