At least one Harrison councillor feels the community’s projected housing need and what developers will be willing to build might not match up.
During council Monday night (Dec. 2), councillor Gerry Palmer brought up his thoughts on Harrison’s new housing needs assessment, which looked at statistics on the village’s homes and residents to create a community profile and some suggestions for the future. In the assessment, it indicated one- and two-bedroom homes would be the area of greatest housing need in the next five years.
“It would suggest we don’t need three-bedroom units, and I see that, but I also suspect that if someone were building, it would be the three-bedroom units the market would snap up,” Palmer said. “We’re an unusual community, because so much of our stock is purchased by part-time residents.
“When you look at what we appear to need for housing and what the market may build and what the market may actually take up in Harrison, there is potentially quite a gap.”
According to the assessment, just over 70 per cent of the residential properties in Harrison are three-bedrooms or more — and as all the housing starts in the last two years have been snapped up by buyers, Palmer said that may be the direction the market is trending.
The report “seems to indicate we’ve had a bit of a falling population, and I found that interesting,” Palmer said. “Our buildings are going up but our population is falling, which means a lot of our new stock has been purchased by part-time residents — or that a lot of our new stock has been built after statistics were available.”
How many homes are in use by part-time owners also came up during question period following Monday’s meeting — and the short answer is there is no way of knowing.
Because Harrison is a resort municipality, a number of the residents do not live in the village full-time. Although the housing needs assessment identified about 200 homes as “vacant” — or at least, not matching with the number of census households in Harrison — the assumption is those would be lived in by part-time residents.
However, others may list Harrison as their primary residence and be included in census data for the village, yet be snowbirds during the winter or have homes in other municipalities.
“It’s a mixed bag of part-time residents who could identify as part of census data and be snowbirds, or people who have secondary residences in Harrison and have primary residences somewhere else,” CAO Madeline McDonald said. “Where people identify their primary residence doesn’t necessarily mean they’re a full-time resident here.”
Councillors also discussed senior residents during their examination of the housing needs report; another area of future need identified by the assessment.
“I certainly have heard from some residents about how they view a need for some kind of more seniors’ housing, in conjunction with accessibility to medical appointments and other amenities,” councillor Michie Vidal said. “I’m looking forward to using this as a tool when we come next year to reviewing our OCP.”
Council accepted the housing needs assessment for receipt during Monday night’s meeting, and will be using it to inform future discussions around the village’s OCP, which is set to be updated in 2020.