Revelstoke housing update: projects in the works, but little change on the ground

Several new projects in the works will increase the number of rental units in the city, but Revelstoke has yet to see much on-the-ground change.

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A downtown home. Revelstoke Mountaineer file photo

This article first appeared in print in the October/November issue of Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine.

Revelstoke’s lack of long-term rental housing presents a year-round problem, but the crunch hits especially hard in the fall when hundreds of people begin seeking accommodation for the winter months. A recent Telus Insights study shows the population of Revelstoke basically doubles during the winter months, making the search for a place to live even more difficult.

Over the past year, a number of housing projects have come to fruition that, once completed, will see an increase in the number of affordable and middle-income rental units available in Revelstoke. Revelstoke Mountain Resort also announced its intention to begin building staff accommodation as part of Resort Master Plan update. Once completed the three employee buildings would provide between 150 to 200 beds. However, the updated resort plan indicates construction on the staff housing units wouldn’t begin until after completion of a hotel and conference centre.

Vacation rentals are also problematic, leading to reduction in the number of long-term units as homeowners opt to create AirBnB-style accommodation that can be rented out for a much higher price. The influx of homeowners converting suites into vacation rentals over the past decade has also led to an increase in the price of long-term rental units. While the City of Revelstoke has signaled a crackdown on illegal vacation rentals, and has essentially stopped issuing permits for any new legal vacation rentals, the city has yet to create any specific policies to address the issue. Late last year, planning department staff told the Mountaineer that new a vacation rentals policy was coming soon, but it has yet to appear.

The good news, however, is that there are several projects in the works that will see an increase in the number of rental units available in the city.

Affordable housing projects in the works, but yet to be completed

Overnight camping in the Southside area. File photo: Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine

The B.C. Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing has announced several projects over the past year. In February 2019, the B.C. Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing announced they had purchased property in the Southside neighbourhood where the now demolished Mount Begbie Elementary School sat, with plans to work with the city and other stakeholders to create an affordable housing project.

According to a statement issued by the ministry the property, located at 420 Downie Street, purchased from the Revelstoke Board of Education at a cost of $1.5 million, “is large enough to accommodate a range of housing projects that could benefit tourism industry employees, low-to-moderate income families and seniors.” A look at BC Housing’s website shows the project is still in the preliminary stages, with public engagement taking place and a completion date still to be determined.

The Mountaineer contacted ministry staff at the time of the announcement. They explained a consultation process to determine the best use of the site would be the first step. It hasn’t yet started. They also said it was likely at least two years before any construction starts and that a phased development for the site is a possibility.

In May, 2019 the Revelstoke Community Housing Society announced it was making progress on a 24-unit affordable housing project on Humbert Street. The project, funded by BC Housing and Columbia Basin Trust, was originally set at 21 units, but a reduction in suite size led to an ability to increase the project. The RCHS indicated project completion is expected sometime in 2020.

In June 2019, BC Housing again announced the purchase of property in Revelstoke, this time spending about $12 million to purchase two aging apartments with the intention of upgrading the buildings in order to provide “middle income” rentals. Once completed, the apartment complexes at Columbia Gardens and Rivers Edge will add an additional 38 units to the rental pool. Residents already in the building were not required to move during the remediation and renovation process.

Revelstoke’s lack of long-term rental housing presents a year-round problem, but the crunch hits especially hard in the fall when hundreds of people begin seeking accommodation for the winter months. A recent Telus Insights study shows the population of Revelstoke basically doubles during the winter months, making the search for a place to live even more difficult.

Over the past year, a number of housing projects have come to fruition that, once completed, will see an increase in the number of affordable and middle-income rental units available in Revelstoke. Revelstoke Mountain Resort also announced its intention to begin building staff accommodation as part of Resort Master Plan update. Once completed the three employee buildings would provide between 150 to 200 beds. However, the updated resort plan indicates construction on the staff housing units wouldn’t begin until after completion of a hotel and conference centre.

Vacation rentals are also problematic, leading to reduction in the number of long-term units as homeowners opt to create AirBnB-style accommodation that can be rented out for a much higher price. The influx of homeowners converting suites into vacation rentals over the past decade has also led to an increase in the price of long-term rental units. While the City of Revelstoke has signaled a crackdown on illegal vacation rentals, and has essentially stopped issuing permits for any new legal vacation rentals, the city has yet to create any specific policies to address the issue. Late last year, planning department staff told the Mountaineer that new a vacation rentals policy was coming soon, but it has yet to appear.

The good news, however, is that there are several projects in the works that will see an increase in the number of rental units available in the city.

Affordable housing projects in the works, but yet to be completed

A camper with a creative ski box. Photo: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine

The B.C. Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing has announced several projects over the past year. In February 2019, the B.C. Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing announced they had purchased property in the Southside neighbourhood where the now demolished Mount Begbie Elementary School sat, with plans to work with the city and other stakeholders to create an affordable housing project.

According to a statement issued by the ministry the property, located at 420 Downie Street, purchased from the Revelstoke Board of Education at a cost of $1.5 million, “is large enough to accommodate a range of housing projects that could benefit tourism industry employees, low-to-moderate income families and seniors.” A look at BC Housing’s website shows the project is still in the preliminary stages, with public engagement taking place and a completion date still to be determined.

The Mountaineer contacted ministry staff at the time of the announcement. They explained a consultation process to determine the best use of the site would be the first step. It hasn’t yet started. They also said it was likely at least two years before any construction starts and that a phased development for the site is a possibility.

In May, 2019 the Revelstoke Community Housing Society announced it was making progress on a 24-unit affordable housing project on Humbert Street. The project, funded by BC Housing and Columbia Basin Trust, was originally set at 21 units, but a reduction in suite size led to an ability to increase the project. The RCHS indicated project completion is expected sometime in 2020.

In June 2019, BC Housing again announced the purchase of property in Revelstoke, this time spending about $12 million to purchase two aging apartments with the intention of upgrading the buildings in order to provide “middle income” rentals. Once completed, the apartment complexes at Columbia Gardens and Rivers Edge will add an additional 38 units to the rental pool. Residents already in the building were not required to move during the remediation and renovation process.

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