Conservative MP for Kootenay-Columbia Rob Morrison stopped into Revelstoke to update the community on what he’s been working on with the federal government since his re-election in September.
“I’m trying to focus on what’s really important for Kootenay-Columbia,” said Morrison.
Addressing housing affordability and labour shortages were two of the most prominent issues Morrison raised on the campaign trail, issues he is now focusing on most in Ottawa with the federal government.
Morrison was on a trip across the riding, from Cranbrook to Revelstoke, and then to Nelson.
Morrison spoke of the importance of staffing businesses across the region and added that service industry employees are not making the money to afford to live.
A recent report from Living Wage for Families BC provided an update for the living wage for families in B.C. in 2021.
The living wage is calculated as the hourly amount that each of two working parents with two young children must earn to meet their basic expenses.
In Revelstoke, the reported living wage for 2021 is $19.51, a 3.23 per cent increase from the reported living wage from 2019 of $18.90. That is higher than the provincial minimum wage, which is currently at $15.20.
According to Morrison, the rising cost of necessities and the effects inflation has had on everyday purchases has had a major effect on the rise in the living wage.
“To get inflation under check, we need to have economic growth,” said Morrison. He added that the COVID-19 pandemic has had an effect on economic growth across Canada, but that attracting international investors to invest in the local economy remains vital to stimulating growth.
Morrison said that when businesses are thriving, then comes the opportunity to raise the minimum wage and give people the opportunity to afford their basic needs.
The Living Wage for Families BC reported that the highest monthly increase in family expenses in 2021 was in the costs of shelter and telecommunications, which jumped by 14.6 per cent since the 2019 living wage calculation.
Housing affordability remains a major concern for residents of Revelstoke. “How many homes here have multiple people in them just to pay the rent?” said Morrison. “You can’t do it yourself.”
Rising property values
According to Morrison, an issue that is consistent for communities across the Kootenay-Columbia riding is housing.
The Kootenay-Columbia 2022 Property Assessment by BC Assessment revealed the rise in the cost of a single-family residential property in Revelstoke, showing a massive increase in assessed value between 2021 and 2022.
The typically assessed value in Revelstoke as of July 1, 2021, is $719,000, a 32 per cent increase in the value shown in the previous year’s report of $546,000.
Overall, Kootenay Columbia’s total assessments increased from $49.7 billion in 2021 to $60.7 billion this year. Nearly $725 million of the region’s updated assessments is from new construction, subdivisions and the rezoning of properties.
“Who’s gonna buy it?” said Morrison in reaction to the rise in property values. “A normal person in a normal job is going to have a hard time affording that.”
Morrison said the federal government needs to give incentives to builders to build low-cost housing units, especially in resort communities like Revelstoke due to the higher demand in housing from individuals who work in the community.
He added that in addition to building low-cost housing, having structured, locally-based landlords who closely monitor these properties is vital to their maintenance.
Morrison added that population density is another important factor to consider when building affordable housing complexes, and spoke to the importance of making sure the infrastructure was in place to support these properties.
“It’s not like a city where you can put a twenty-one story building up,” said Morrison.
In addition to these issues, Morrison added that he is frustrated with the border closures in Canada right now, and stressed the importance of implementing border testing for international tourists who support higher-end activities, but who are staffed by people in communities across the region.
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