Leaving Squamish to Get Ahead

couple

Brad Parker and Lauren Coots are leaving Squamish for Ontario for a better life.
Photo: Gagandeep Ghuman

By Gagandeep Ghuman
Published: May 24, 2014

They have thought about it for six years and they are finally doing it. Brad Parker and Lauren Coutts are leaving Squamish and moving to Ontario.

Yes, it will be cold there and they will miss the mountains, but they’ll be able to buy a home, afford its mortgage, and secure jobs that will pay enough to raise a family.

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Here in Squamish, they tread thin water. Parker works in downtown Vancouver Eastside as a support worker, while Lauren takes care of her four children in a rented home in Valleycliffe.

They share the home with another family, who discounts the rent in exchange for childcare provided by Coutts.

They have thought of buying a home here, but with activity in market and home prices poised to rise, they realise they will only be able to buy a townhome insufficient for a family of six.

“I won’t have the mountains there, but I will have money in my pocket,” Scott Parker

In Peterborough, where Parker is originally from, they can buy a rural property with acreage for under $250,000.

With a child in government-paid junior kindergarten, Coots will also be free to look for a job.

Parker, meanwhile, is hoping to drive a truck or find work in a factory near Peterborough, working class opportunities he can’t find in Squamish.

“I won’t have the mountains there, but I will have money in my pocket,” Parker says.

For young families looking to rent or buy a home, the story may be depressingly familiar: As economic activity quickens, rentals get scarce and expensive.

And while Squamish remains relatively affordable compared to Vancouver and Whistler, the local housing market has started to show feverish activity. 

While Parker and Coutts may feel priced out of the market, there isn’t much they can find in non-market housing.

There has been no purpose built rental housing for low-income families since Castlerock, which was built in the 80s.  

Castlerock has 40 townhomes, where families can live until the youngest child reaches the age of 19.

Typically five to ten families are on the waiting list, said Dennis Smith, the housing and facilities manager.

Riverstones, an affordable housing building on Government Road, is also full, Smith said.

The situation is no better at the Squamish Seniors Housing on Third Ave in downtown Squamish, where 60 seniors are waiting to get an apartment.

“It means it can take anywhere from nine months to two years for someone to get in,” said the administrator Laura Modray.

Modray has also seen a change in the demographic of seniors trying to access housing. Earlier she would see seniors in their 70s and 80s, but now she sees a much younger population of seniors.

Modray says the kind of senior looking for accommodation has also changed. While earlier seniors in their 70s and 80s were trying to access housing; now she sees a lot of people in their 50s and 60s.

The seniors’ society is planning another building, but the process is long and tedious.

The affordability gap

What are the housing needs in our community? Is there a demographic that needs housing more than the others?

 In October 2011, the district allocated funds for an Affordable Housing Framework project, to be carried out by Squamish Housing Options Group (SHOG), a collection of community groups.

SHOG hired Margaret Forbes to assess needs and demands for affordable housing. In a presentation to the council on April 1, Forbes identified the gaps for affordable housing. They traverse the spectrum, but some of them are

    Attainable housing for low income families
   
Seniors housing
   
Housing for developmentally disabled adults
 
  Low barrier housing for homeless or on fixed income
    Support for homeless youth

Affordable housing is as much an economic issue as a social issue, Sonja Lebans, former councilor and social planning council chair.

“You won’t have businesses moving here if the employees can’t find affordable housing,” she said.

SHOG member Maureen Mackell said it’s easy for a family or an individual to slide down to homelessness with lack of affordable housing.

The affordable housing framework will guide and coordinate local affordable housing efforts.

Comments

  1. Jonathan Stickel says:

    I never thought I would read this long overdue story in Squamish . Our area is neither North Vancouver or Whistler, and lacks any real job base at all.It never will. Squamish, will continue as a bedroom community of Vancouver only.Home prices will continue be based on a formula blended by a mix of both markets together. This means Squamish housing will be a great bargain…provided you are looking at them from a Whistler or Vancouver’s point of view. Even in Vancouver the demand for affordable housing far outstrips the supply. The result is what this article covers very well. I salute the Squamish Reporter for bringing yet another nasty little Squamish secret into the light. As for this couple,they sound like great people,the kind that Squamish can’t afford to lose. It will take years to address this problem and will require a progressive,creative, forward thinking local government. None of which,sadly, Squamish enjoys. I wish them all the best back East in the future. Vio con Dios. Jon Stickel.

  2. Anne Bright says:

    Great story Gagandeep and best of luck in Ontario Brad Parker and Lauren Coots.

  3. TJay says:

    Enjoy the humidity, black flies, and mosquitos !…..

  4. Dwain Bebington says:

    Why are we as Squamish citizens allowing this to happen to are town. I understand this family because me and my wife with our two kids are in the same situation. I remember that this town cared more about its citizens then what was in their bank account. Sadly this concept of caring is disappearing and soon this town will turn soulless like all the others. We all have bills to pay but it shouldn’t push out the soul of our town. People make Squamish a great place for all are families to live not the few rich.