Q&A: We asked Revelstoke city council and mayor candidates about housing

In this week's Q&A with Revelstoke city council and mayor candidates, we asked about housing.

File photo. Housing issues in Revelstoke remain a top priority amid the 2022 election. Photo: Nora Hughes

The Revelstoke Mountaineer’s question and answer series with city council candidates cover a wide variety of issues that are likely to be central to the upcoming municipal election on Oct. 15, 2022. The series features verbatim answers written by the candidates themselves. The questions were created by the Mountaineer’s multimedia community reporter, Nora Hughes.

The second round of the Mountaineer’s question and answer series with the city council and mayor candidates features two questions regarding housing. An issue at the forefront of elections past, housing remains a central concern to Revelstoke residents.

At a recent council meeting, Councillors voted to pass the Revelstoke Housing Action Plan, a successful stride for the current council. However, some members of the council expressed beliefs that the housing crisis is a ‘provincial issue.’ We asked candidates to clarify their stance on the local government’s role in addressing the housing issues in Revelstoke and asked what specific solutions they plan to provide if elected.

We asked candidates to answer the following:

  1. Revelstoke City Council recently passed the Revelstoke Housing Action Plan. The plan finds that there is a massive need for affordable, below-market units in the community. What is your stance on the local government’s role in addressing the housing issues in Revelstoke?
  2. If elected, how will you provide housing solutions specific to the unique needs of Revelstoke?

Here are the responses from the candidates who got back to us prior to our publication deadline:

Tim Stapenhurst (candidate for council)

Tim Stapenhurst is running for a seat on Revelstoke city council. Photo: Tim Stapenhurst

1. The Revelstoke Housing Action Plan has laid the groundwork for us as a community to move forward and address the housing crisis. This is a time for action and to start implementing the changes outlined in the Housing Action Plan. I would like to focus on increasing the supply of housing available and offer incentives for the development of the missing middle, a term used for smaller multi-family units. As a community, we need to invest strategically to support the current and future growth of affordable housing.

2. If elected, I will provide housing solutions that are specific to the unique needs of Revelstoke by supporting existing programs, continuing to work with external shareholders, and encouraging development that incorporates affordable housing. I would also support housing that addresses the missing middle, prioritize the development of a housing committee, and continue to seek out grants and other funding sources to address overall affordability in Revelstoke.

John Hordyk (candidate for council)

John Hordyk is running for a seat on Revelstoke city councol. Photo: John Hordyk

1. First, I would like to thank the outgoing council for their hard work on housing, including passing the Housing Action Plan. Some of the projects they worked on are starting to see fruit. Any of the long-term actions proposed by the new council will probably not make much difference during the new council’s term. However, I was disappointed with some of the outgoing council members’ opinions that housing is a provincial issue and that municipalities should get out of the way.

Lack of housing is one of the biggest problems Revelstoke faces, and one of the reasons I decided to run for council. We need to start acting like the lack of housing is an emergency. People who grew up here with deep roots are having to move away, or work out of town to find housing.

The housing plan recently passed has several examples of ways municipal governments can work to increase housing. These include facilitating development with plans and policies, regulating by taking advantage of rental-only zoning and limiting short-term vacation rentals. The city can incentivize and invest, with expedited approvals and perhaps land being given to new rental-only housing developments. We can also partner with other levels of government to expedite housing development.

2. We have an urgent need to increase the number of available rental units until the rental vacancy rate is back to a healthy level. The city has recently begun enforcing the by-law that restricts some short-term vacation rentals. It will be interesting to see how well this works and hopefully pass further measures down the road to help maintain rental housing availability. One of the best ways people can make a difference in this election is for renters to get out and vote. There are a number of renters running for office this election, and electing people that reflect your own situation is the best way you can get the government to work for you.

Lee Devlin (candidate for council)

Lee Devlin is running for a seat on Revelstoke city council. Photo: Lee Devlin
  1. Affordable housing is, obviously, a huge issue in Revelstoke and has been for quite a few years. Encouraging the development of new, high-capacity units absolutely needs to be a priority, but we also need to expand our focus on the infrastructure needed to support an expanding population. BC in general is experiencing issues with housing, but there’s no doubt those issues are highly inflated in Revelstoke, and the City needs to being taking a much more proactive stance in fixing that.
  2. As I said, I think developing new homes is a massive priority, but I also think we need to work on trying to combat rising cost of living expenses across the board. Increasing property taxes constantly only serves to make things less affordable for both renters and long-term homeowners. If tourism is meant to be the backbone of our economy in Revelstoke, we need to find ways to make tourists help foot the bills for all of us and to capitalize on the industry in a way that helps everyone.

Rushda Rubaia (candidate for council)

Rushda Rubaua is running for a seat on Revelstoke city council. Photo Rushda Rubaia
  1. Even though tourists bring a lot of money into town, this town wouldn’t be able to serve them if we didn’t have our workers. Servers in the restaurants, people working at the ski hill, mill workers, rail workers – they are the mitochondria of this town’s economy. And I believe that workers should be able to bear their living costs. Hence, we should use our government funds to build more affordable houses in town and take measures to make sure ONLY the ones who truly needs those housings, get them.
  2. Microhoming can be an affordable solution both for the city and the local workers. Depending on the family size, people should be alotted certain sizes of homes. Making sure the air bnbs don’t monopolize on rent caps. I personally beleive that more developments in town will bring more competition on retal rates. And once the supply increases more than the demand, monopoly will be difficult. There should also be restrictions on over-booking hotels past their capacities. And renting to certain amounts of tenants depending on the size of the house.

Gary Sulz (candidate for mayor)

Gary Sulz is running for Mayor of Revelstoke. Photo: Gary Sulz
  1. Local government will need to continue finding solutions to attainable housing as we move forward, without downloading the cost of housing on the taxpayer. This means continuing to work with the Provincial Government, BC Housing and the private sector to assist in this endeavor. Under my leadership, Council has had many conversations with the BC government and through that we have seen BC Housing invest in Revelstoke. I have also had conversations with CPR and I am proud that they have chosen to re-invest in our community by supplying 48 units of employee housing for their people. Because of these units, there will be 48 units of low cost housing available to others in the community. We will continue the dialogue and encourage ongoing investment to meet the needs of our residents.
  2. I will continue the work started during the past four years. Under my leadership, we have approved changes to the zoning bylaw to assist in various types of additional housing. We have approximately 190 affordable units, either constructed or under construction, and many more at the building permit or development permit stage. Garden suites are also coming on stream. In addition to that, I have had several conversations with our MLA Doug Clovechok and we are looking at ways that we can work with the Provincial Government to acquire crown land for additional housing. I have also discussed a local housing authority model with staff and we will continue to look at models that may be suitable for Revelstoke. I have had conversations with other Mayors on what they were successful with and received that information to pass on to staff to see what will work here in Revelstoke. I will continue to work hard to meet the housing needs of our residents.

Gary (Eddie) Shultz (Candidate for council) 

Gary E Shultz is a running for Revelstoke city council. Photo: Gary Shultz

1. The current housing situation in Canada, as a whole, is in dire straits. Most people of my generation felt that they had missed the boat on purchasing a house before COVID-19. The Revelstoke Housing Action Plan(HAP) acknowledged this as early as 2018, when the city began assessing the seriousness of the situation. The problem is exacerbated here, where cities such as Revelstoke have far surpassed housing inflation of 3-5%/year within the last decade. I feel this highlights the need for local municipalities to step in, rather than wait to see if rising interest rates and federal funding can rectify a problem that is only gaining momentum. I think the work that the city has done within the HAP is impressive and their dedication to helping shows how progressive and forward thinking we are. If elected, I would hope to continue with this momentum.

2. The existing HAP is full of great short term initiatives. For the most part, I could only offer additions that would build on this great foundation. Incentivizing residential development is critical to making space for innovative approaches. If the solution were obvious, the problem wouldn’t be a focal point. The HAP makes mention of “Develop(ing) an approach and internal culture that sets housing as a high-level priority” I would suggest that this also focus on making these incentives and initiatives more accessible to homeowners, not just developers. I believe there are many residents that would make use of density bonuses and carriage home opportunities if they knew the city were approachable and willing to provide more guidance.

I would also assume that the city has gone through great lengths to assess local, provincial and federal land as options for residential development. I think again, there are also residential land owners that would seek out making use of their property, if the necessary support were available.

Lastly, I would suggest the local municipal government lobby the province to review the vacant home speculation tax – firstly, to include Revelstoke but secondly, to ensure that our municipality benefits from it. Another suggestion would be to lobby for a percentage of land transfer taxes collected, go back to the municipality – the inflated cost of housing(and therefore tax income) highlights why the local municipality should benefit from these inflated collections.

Nicole Cherlet (candidate for mayor)

Nicole Cherlet is in the running for mayor of Revelstoke. Photo: Nicole Cherlet

1. Housing needs have been largely ignored since the shift in Federal policy in the 80’s. The belief was that the market would provide, and governments should stay out of the way. Everyone should want a single family home, and ownership is attainable if you just work hard enough.

Before being elected to council in 2018, I advocated for better wages, housing supply and inclusion for hospitality and service workers. Low, variable wages and shift work made it difficult for industry professionals to stay in the community, and no one seemed to think it was their problem to fix. The situation has continued to get worse, and affordability is now affecting nurses, teachers and tradespeople as well as higher paid professionals.

Every level of government has a role to play to ensure our residents have access to basic shelter and other human rights. I’m still a tenant myself, and understand the intensity of our crisis.

The Mayor and Council should be openly collaborating with our local and regional partners to reduce barriers to new housing supply, advocate for more direct investment to improve affordability and fill gaps, and do our own planning work to prepare the local services to match increased density.

2. Not everyone wants or needs a large, single family home. Our recently adopted Official Community Plan (OCP) calls for residential infill and moderate density across our city to build homes that employees, young adults, and seniors can afford. The Housing Action Plan as well as the OCP Implementation guide need to be living documents as we set budgets and priorities in the next 4 years.

In Council this past term, I have voted and advocated for smart density, improved roadways, and investment in active transportation and better public transit. The next council will decide on Development Cost Charges, Community Amenity Contributions, and determine how aggressively we pursue affordable housing development in Revelstoke. If we’re successful, our residents will be housed on their terms, and we’ll see decreased average rental housing costs as a result.

As Mayor, I would have full time capacity to support these hard conversations and collaborate better with our partners. My experience in service and in business has taught me to listen carefully for the underlying issues to reduce miscommunication and find solutions that accurately address concerns with the limited available resources.

Connect further with my campaign here: https://forms.gle/h5Na6HRDfnLnJeKd7

Tony Jeglum (Candidate for council)

Tony Jeglum is in the running for a seat on Revelstoke city council. Photo: Tony Jeglum

1. Local governments can, if they choose, have a big impact on housing. For example, city council can decide if a house will be used for a family to live in long term or if that same house will be rented by the night like a hotel. Council can also leave development of new housing to the private sector or be the developer instead. Revelstoke city council has recently dabbled (as a partner) with building new apartment units, but too few and years too late. Our local government should become more involved. We should be partnering with more not-for-profit organizations to expand our housing stock. We cannot afford more developments like MacKenzie Village – a place dominated by out of town investors and absentee AirB&B landlords. I know there is a considerable number of Revelstokians who would like to go back to what Revelstoke was before the resort, but we cannot do that. We can, however, choose how we proceed. We need a mayor and council that will provide leadership moving forward. We need a mayor and council that will attack this issue and we need policy that will prioritize housing for locals instead of investment opportunities.

2. We need to signal to the market that we are changing direction when it comes to housing in Revelstoke. As such I would push for an immediate ban on short term rentals such as AirB&B. If someone wishes to rent out a bedroom by the night, that is fine, but the host should be living there too. We should have Bed and Breakfasts, not AirB&Bs. After all, the air in AirB&B is in reference to an air mattress. Not an entire house. And the website was not originally meant as a means for turning a home into a hotel. We need more housing for the people who want to live here and at the moment we cannot afford entire houses being rented out like hotels.

We cannot build our way out of this crisis if we continue let investors buy-up our housing. Turning AirB&Bs into long term rentals would have an immediate and positive impact on Revelstoke. So would signalling to investors that our priority is housing our residents.

Obviously more work will be required, (density, parking requirements, staff accommodation, affordable rental options) but this is a first positive step.

Aaron Orlando (candidate for council)

Aaron Orlando is running for a seat on Revelstoke city council. Photo: Aaron Orlando

1. Housing is the number one issue in the community and my top priority, as outlined in my council platform published on www.aaronorlando.ca. This past week alone I have engaged in conversations with city staff, tourism stakeholders and social stakeholders on the housing issue.

Free market housing has been and will be the main form of housing. Social housing, such as seniors facilities, supportive housing and social housing is an important component of affordable housing in Revelstoke.

Local government is key to driving the creation and replacement of both forms of housing and my focus will be on creating hundreds more units of private and social housing this term.

We can drive hundreds of new units of private housing by finalizing reforms to the city’s antiquated zoning bylaw, something I’ve advocated for publicly for a decade. Housing investors hate mystery and an updated zoning bylaw creates certainty and a level playing field that gets hammers swinging on the kinds of housing we need. The OCP is complete and council can finalize zoning reforms in the near future.

For social housing, I will advocate for a collaborative stakeholder process resulting in a made-in-Revelstoke housing organization modelled after other successful B.C. housing authorities. I’ll explain in the response below.

2. Revelstoke faces housing pressures similar to many places in B.C. and Canada, but our issues are compounded by unique market pressures that most mountain resort communities in the U.S. and Canada face. Demand outstrips supply and soon working people who are the lifeblood of the community can’t afford to live here. People suffer and our local economy suffers, too.

As a past council representative and board member of the Revelstoke Community Housing Society, I learned about the unique challenges this amazing volunteer-run organization faces in providing new social housing. I feel we need to provide more resources to our primary local social housing developer. I propose engaging in a big-tent process with a full range of housing stakeholders that results in a new housing authority that is provided with more resources, particularly legal authority.

As councillor, I lobbied the housing minister for B.C. Housing investment in Revelstoke. B.C. Housing investment in Columbia Gardens and Rivers Edge, and the announcement of the Downie Street project followed. B.C. Housing has signalled they want to transfer oversight to a local authority — let’s get it in place, get building and get planning the next project.

Please vote for Aaron Orlando on Oct. 15.

Matt Cherry (candidate for council)

Matt Cherry is running for a seat on Revelstoke city council. Photo: Matt Cherry

1. I believe that local government plays a significant role in addressing and working to mitigate housing issues in Revelstoke. They have had to increase their involvement as housing needs have risen, and I believe this is only the beginning. The Revelstoke Housing Action Plan was far from a quick write up, but rather a well thought out and produced plan that the municipality is now responsible for and ensuring it is seen through. From establishing regulation, facilitating, convening and incentivizing developments and funding, the city should continue to research, engage partners (both for profit and nonprofit), stakeholders and use all tools available within the administration capacity to support housing needs through this plan. While I believe it’s transparent to say the local government alone can not solve the issue, it is certainly a pillar in the current focus of local governments that I believe needs to be focused on. The plan is ambitious but I certainly support it and I am ready to help see it through.

2. In line with the Revelstoke Housing Action Plan I would ensure housing solutions are top priority and as many solutions as possible are quickly commenced. Some important points I would like to start with include developing suitable density bonusing and inclusionary zoning programs within the community, developing affordable housing reserves that can leverage the density bonus contributions, OAP and other funding options and reviewing the existing city lands and feasibility of the lands for affordable housing.

All of this to ultimately support residents facing housing barriers, increase workforce housing, regulate existing rentals and mobile homes, increase affordable housing for new buyers and create open communication in this beautiful town we all call home. We shouldn’t have to decide between bringing a new teacher, or a new bank teller into town because we can only house one of them. We need our first responders and nurses, as much as we need our contractors building the new homes to actually see real change. Housing issues are affecting everyone so much more than meets the eye and I believe we need to identify and mitigate this as quickly and effectively as we can.

Austin Luciow (candidate for council)

Austin Luciow is running for a seat on Revelstoke city council. Photo: Austin Luciow

1. Housing is the first and major issue that will need to be addressed with the new council starting their term. The local government must play an instrumental role in the implementation and approval for development of affordable, below market, medium and high-density housing in Revelstoke. We are seeing the strain year after year for small businesses to find and retain staff due to the costs of living exceeding the wages they are able to offer employees.

We have to asses the un-used and under-utilized land under different ownership in and around town and facilitate a constructive conversation about its possible uses and hurdles that stand in the way for things to progress in a positive nature. This needs to be supported by local government who is aware of the issues prevalent in their community to the lobby provincial and federal governments in a bottom up approach not from the top down.

Small businesses are vital to the thriving town we have built and these need to be run and staffed by residents who can afford to stay in town without the fear of loosing their housing in the interest of short term or market value rentals.

2. We need to have constructive discussions that end with decisions being made. These decisions are vital to the growth of our town and need to look out for the employees that are working hard to keep this town running but allow them to enjoy the reasons they have moved to this beautiful place.

We need to approve the development of the MicroHome Initiative that can utilize small amounts of land to develop individual dwelling run through a strata, allowing people to gain access to the housing market in an affordable way. We can either help this project gain traction and grow nation wide or we can watch this approach be adopted by other towns and then wish we were the ones that helped start it.

Higher density housing also needs to be seriously discussed to allow for the development of below market long term rental option to allow businesses, families, and employees feel secure in their future in town.

RMR needs to hastily start construction on staff accommodation. As a large employer, their staff take up a large portion of housing that would be useful for smaller businesses to have access to.

If you have any questions regarding the Mountaineer’s election Q&A series, please contact Nora Hughes at nora@revelstokemountaineer.com.

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Nora Hughes is a recent graduate of the Thompson Rivers University Interdisciplinary Program, where she combined her passions for Adventure Tourism, Communications and Journalism. With a strong interest in community news, Nora is passionate about giving a voice and face to the people of Revelstoke through storytelling.