More than 580 affordable rental units announced for B.C. Interior

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The South Okanagan and Similkameen were in the spotlight on March 22, when the B.C. government said it was providing more than 580 affordable units for renters across the Interior.

Ravi Kahlon, the province’s minister of housing, was in Okanagan Falls on Friday and announced that 36 new homes are coming to the community. They will be located next to South Skaha Place, a 26-unit project that opened in 2019.

“We’re not going to be able to build the housing we need unless we invest directly in affordable housing,” Kahlon declared, adding that Keremeos and Princeton were also selected as part of the province’s 584-unit plan.

READ ALSO: More funding for Keremeos’ Ambrosia housing

“Today, I’m proud to be in [Okanagan Falls] to say that we’re going to fund 15 new housing projects across the region.”

Projects across the region were made possible through the Community Housing Fund, which represents a $19-billion investment from the province.

“This life-changing action for British Columbians wouldn’t be possible without the dedicated support and community leadership of the partners in these communities, so I’m grateful for what they do for so many,” said Roly Russell, MLA for Boundary-Similkameen.

Kahlon and Russell spoke to the local projects on Friday in front of more than 30 people, including non-profit leaders, tenants of South Skaha Place, Princeton mayor Spencer Coyne and Matt Taylor, director for Okanagan Falls within the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen (RDOS).

“Okanagan Falls is growing,” Taylor said. “We have new jobs coming in, and new hires too, so that’s going to create more demand for housing as time goes on.”

The province’s influx of new housing projects across the region comes one day after communities within the RDOS elected to opt into B.C.’s new short-term rental regulations.

New regulations — set to take effect on May 1 — require short-term rentals to be limited to residential units on properties where the primary owner lives.

At an RDOS meeting on March 21, Okanagan Falls was among the areas to opt into the regulations.

“I know in some communities people are happy with me and some are not, but the reality is we are losing close 20 per cent year-over-year of our housing to short-term rentals,” Kahlon said. “We need that housing for people who live in our communities.”

READ ALSO: West Bench, Kaleden, Okanagan Falls opt in to short term rental regulations

In a statement, the province said new units will provide “affordable rental homes for individuals, families, seniors, people living with disabilities and Indigenous people in B.C.”

Kahlon added that communities the size of Keremeos are “punching well above” their weight when it comes to securing such projects.

“I know what it means for the community when you have housing for people that live in it,” he said.

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