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Why affordable worker housing is the latest obstacle to Canada’s tourist town hotspots – National

When he and his wife opened Fish & Sips in 2015, Paul Feather saw hiring as one of the many challenges of running a long-running restaurant in Collingwood, Ont.

But after the COVID-19 pandemic hit and vacation home prices skyrocketed, the 49-year-old made employees his number one breadwinner, in no small part due to a lack of affordable accommodation. for workers. rent.

“It’s affordability, but also usability. There aren’t enough rentals for people to choose from,” Feather said from the restaurant’s dining area, which is currently expanding.

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His most recent kitchen hire couldn’t find a place in town and commute by car – another setback as gas prices soar and public transport in the area has come to a standstill.

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Feather is increasingly dependent on high school and college students in front of their home – “they already live at home” – but those under 18 are banned from serving alcohol and restricted to storing, taking away or working at the cashier counter.

“It was extremely difficult,” he said.

Businesses in tourist hotspots far from major cities are feeling the squeeze of affordable housing, as smaller communities struggle to attract workers amid labor stress and rent increases.


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Rentals.ca, a Canadian website for apartment rental searches, says the average rent for all Canadian properties listed on its site has increased 10.5% year over year. to $1,888 per month in May. According to the Real Estate Association of Canada, the national median home price hit $700,000 last month, up 41 percent from two years ago as mortgage size skyrocketed from Vancouver Island to Atlantic Canada.

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The state of Ontario is no exception. In the South Georgia Bay, which includes Collingwood, the median price of a single-family home jumped nearly 28 percent in 2021 from the previous year to $881,000, according to a Royal LePage report. Prices increased 49% in the Muskoka region of Ontario, 29% in the Laurentians of Quebec and 26% in its Eastern Towns.

The trend affecting rental costs has not shown any sign of abating. Re/Max Canada predicts median home prices in Canada’s “recreational” areas will increase by 20% for the rest of the year, the brokerage said last month.

Meanwhile, falling unemployment is exacerbating labor problems for retailers and tourism operators in small towns, falling to 5.1% in May and marking the third consecutive month. The main index hit a new record low.


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“The problem has gotten worse this year,” said Colleen Kennedy, executive director of the Gros Morne Partnership, which works with Newfoundland’s Gros Morne National Park. Others are scrambling to build or buy units for them.

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Bilingual staff – the key to a federally operated park – and specialty chefs are especially hard to find because property prices and rents are beyond young people’s reach, says Kennedy.

“It is not a small problem, it is a big problem. Because how do you grow the industry without accessing the human resources you need? All the way around, we’ve really found it tough this season. And it won’t get any better; We are expecting the tourism industry to grow.”

Short-term rentals like those on Airbnb complicate matters further, further reducing availability but also boosting tourism figures.

“When people buy these properties where they already have long-term tenants, they put them on the Airbnb marketplace instead because they can make a few weekends out of the month what they would get. when there are full-time tenants there, said Ellen Timms, a spokeswoman for the Wasaga Beach Chamber of Commerce.

“The shortage of personnel is very real,” she said, which also means that workers are “taking a short cut”.

On the street in Collingwood, where short-term rentals are illegal, about 300 such properties were found on platforms including Airbnb, Flipkey and VRBO, a recent report by licensing and compliance officers The town’s prime shows.

Things are not brighter in the west.


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In the Nelson, BC counterculture area, the mountain town coped with a rental vacancy rate of 0.6% in October, according to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. In Vancouver Island, Tofino’s surf haven saw median home sales increase 51% to $1.72 million in the first three months of 2022 from a year earlier, Re/Max reports on “cabin and small house” trend.

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A decade ago, a lingering housing shortage in a ski and hiking resort in Banff, Alta., prompted Nancy Myles to found Banff Accommodation, a for-profit outfit that rents space generally for a period of three to six months for workers to skydive to get a job in a short period of time.

Large employers like Fairmont Hotels and Resorts, the Sunshine Village ski resort and the Banff Center offer some staff accommodation, “but they don’t have enough,” Myles said.

“Anyone who lives in Banff is working in the tourism industry, where the pay hasn’t been really high historically – people aren’t bankers, they’re usually doing well-paying jobs,” she said. minimum. Therefore, the demand for housing caters to “temporary” residents.

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Back near Collingwood, the pandemic and inflation have accelerated labor and housing affordability problems associated with outside real estate investors. But it also shows that a lack of childcare services, insufficient public transport and local planning fail to motivate rental units that “advocate an outdated single detached development”, Andrew Siegwart, president of the Blue Mountain Village Association, a marketing organization for the eponymous ski resort and local businesses.

Siegwart is calling for city planning to provide a more diverse housing supply and provincial policies to support smaller tourist localities, noting that inclusive zoning – a regulatory tool that allows municipalities to Streets require a certain portion of new construction to be within reach of low-income residents – not applicable to lower-density areas.

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“Affordable housing and related infrastructure is our biggest record in five years,” he said.

Looks like it won’t die out anytime soon.

© 2022 Canadian Press

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