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Saanich chamber of commerce warns of dire workforce shortage if more housing not built


A note posted on the door of the Canada Post office in Brentwood Bay warning customers of an upcoming noon hour closure due to a staffing shortage could be a sign of things to come on the Saanich Peninsula.

“We’re on route to lose probably another 20 per cent of our effective workforce by 2036,” said Al Smith, executive director of the Saanich Peninsula Chamber of Commerce.

Between 2016 and 2021, seven per cent of the workforce evaporated, according to the chamber. That’s having a massive impact on not only small businesses but larger ones as well.

“We found out that the root cause of it all is just the cost of living here,” said Smith.

“When we started to dig into it even more we noticed that it was getting even harder to hire high-level workers, like engineers."

The chamber blames a lack of housing options for the affordability issues.

In 2001, the median family income on the Peninsula was $59,000 a year and the median house price was $288,000 – meaning with a 20 per cent down payment, you would need to spend about 30 per cent of your yearly income on housing.

In 2021, the median family income jumped to $100,000 while the median house price rose to $1.4-million. With a 20 per cent down payment, a mortgage now costs families 77 per cent of their yearly income.

“Although we’ve increased salaries, almost double, housing has outstripped that because we haven’t built enough,” said Smith.

The chamber says the only way to reverse this trend is to build more housing of all types on the Peninsula.

“There’s some acute risks in the economy that we need to pay attention to,” said Dallas Gislason, interim CEO of the South Island Prosperity Partnership.

Gislason said it’s a problem being seen across the region, and agrees with the chamber that building more housing is a big part of the solution.

What's required is a “full continuum of all the types of housing you need to create a community" along with "jobs that are closer to home,” said Gislason.

“We’re in a desperate situation for more housing,” said Premier David Eby.

The province is working hard to bring more housing online, including addressing speculation in the housing market, creating a rental protection fund and getting rid of municipal red tape, the premier said.

“We are going to keep taking those actions and that applies equally to the Saanich Peninsula as every other part of the province,” said Eby.

“If we don’t build more housing units, we’re running towards a crisis.” Top Stories

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