MAKES SENSE

Aba­cus Data tells Kelowna there are no easy an­swers around hous­ing af­ford­abil­ity

The Daily Courier - - FRONT PAGE - By JAMES MILLER

Hous­ing cri­sis bad for busi­ness, B.C. Cham­ber says in Kelowna

Af­ford­able hous­ing is the great­est con­cern among B.C.’s busi­ness com­mu­nity, a re­cent sur­vey re­vealed.

In a poll by Aba­cus Data for the BC Cham­ber of Com­merce, 25 per cent of re­spon­dents said the hous­ing sit­u­a­tion is hurt­ing busi­ness in B.C., com­pared with only seven per cent who be­lieve it helps busi­ness.

The sec­ond great­est chal­lenge, ac­cord­ing to the poll, is fed­eral and pro­vin­cial taxes (18 and 17 per cent, re­spec­tively), fol­lowed by ac­cess to labour (16 per cent), cost of labour (14 per cent), and elec­tric­ity prices (14 per cent).

The re­sults were re­vealed Tues­day at a BC Cham­ber event at the Delta Grand Ho­tel which at­tracted 150 busi­ness­peo­ple from the Okana­gan.

In fol­low-up data, 63 per cent of re­spon­dents be­lieve hous­ing af­ford­abil­ity in B.C. has be­come a ma­jor prob­lem.

“Af­ford­able hous­ing is at the top of the list. It’s be­com­ing so ex­pen­sive to live in some parts of B.C., we’ll have trou­ble at­tract­ing young peo­ple and we’ll find it hard to at­tract com­pa­nies to set up busi­ness here,” Aba­cus Data chair­man Bruce An­der­son said.

“Part of it is about eco­nom­ics, but part is about emo­tions. Peo­ple know this is a com­pli­cated is­sue and they don’t know what the so­lu­tion is. One per­son’s un­af­ford­able house is another per­son’s prize as­set that they bor­rowed money to own. It’s their re­tire­ment plan.”

An­der­son said hous­ing af­ford­abil­ity was not a con­cern un­til re­cently. He said many peo­ple want govern­ment to do more, but don’t blame any spe­cific sec­tor for the ris­ing cost of homes.

“There is no magic bul­let so­lu­tion. For B.C. busi­ness, it could be­come a pin­point that could de­cel­er­ate the growth that would oth­er­wise hap­pen. It has the po­ten­tial not just to be a point of fric­tion but to change the macro-eco­nomic con­tent.”

The on­line sur­vey in­volved 877 in­ter­views with cham­ber mem­bers across B.C. The ma­jor­ity of re­spon­dents owned busi­nesses with one to four em­ploy­ees. The re­sults were taken af­ter last spring’s pro­vin­cial elec­tion and An­der­son said there hasn’t been a huge shift in busi­ness op­ti­mism with the change in govern­ment.

Sixty per cent of re­spon­dents be­lieve the pro­vin­cial govern­ment is sup­port­ive of busi­ness, 64 per cent say the fed­eral govern­ment is, and 73 per cent say lo­cal gov­ern­ments are sup­port­ive.

Only five per cent of re­spon­dents said their busi­ness is in poor or very poor shape. The out­look for the next three to five years is also pos­i­tive with only four per cent ex­press­ing pes­simism. A to­tal of 29 per cent ex­pect sig­nif­i­cant eco­nomic growth within five years, and another 52 per cent are ex­pect­ing some growth be­fore 2022.

Busi­ness­peo­ple iden­ti­fied B.C.’s econ­omy as the most pos­i­tive fac­tor of what’s driv­ing their busi­ness. Other pos­i­tives in­clude at­trac­tive­ness of B.C. for tourists, Canada’s global im­age, in­vest­ment in tech­nol­ogy, qual­ity of ed­u­ca­tion, and free trade.

The event also in­cluded a “pulse check” panel dis­cus­sion, mod­er­ated by Kelowna Cham­ber of Com­merce ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Dan Rogers.

Panelists in­cluded Deputy Min­is­ter of Labour Trevor Hughes; as­sis­tant deputy min­is­ter for lo­cal govern­ment Tara Fa­ganello; as­sis­tant deputy min­is­ter for work­force, im­mi­gra­tion and ma­jor in­vest­ment Rob Min­gay; deputy min­is­ter of ed­u­ca­tion Scott Macdon­ald; and as­sis­tant deputy min­is­ter of ad­vanced ed­u­ca­tion Bindi Sawchuk.

JAMES MILLER/The Daily Courier

“It’s be­com­ing so ex­pen­sive to live in some parts of B.C., we’ll have trou­ble at­tract­ing young peo­ple and we’ll find it hard to at­tract com­pa­nies to set up busi­ness here,” Aba­cus Data chair­man Bruce An­der­son said Tues­day night at the Delta Grand ho­tel in Kelowna.

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