Affordable housing in Tofino has been a longstanding issue the community has grappled with for years.
Renowned for its natural beauty and cultural richness, Ian Scott, Tofino Housing Corporation (THC) interim executive director, said that people are “chasing Tofino as a place to live having made money elsewhere, or choosing Tofino as a place to own a second home.”
In 2018, the median assessed value of single-family home in Tofino was $647,500, a 39 per cent increase from 2012, according to the 2018 Clayoquot Sound Biosphere Region’s Vital Signs report.
The result has placed a “significant amount of pressure” on the people who are working in the various tourist sectors within the coastal community.
“They are not able to find accommodation, so businesses have invested in staff accommodation and that has included buying up property,” said Scott. “I have sympathy for those business because there’s not another good option.”
In a move to address the issue, THC has begun the development of a 14-unit affordable housing project at 700 Sharp Road. Partnering with Catalyst Community Developments Society, four one-bedroom units, four two-bedroom units and six three-bedroom units will be up for grabs.
Upon completion, the one-bedroom units will be rented to residents with a household income of under $51,0000 for $875-$1,125 per month. The two-bedroom units will be available to residents with a household income of under $81,000 and rented for $1,100-$1,550 each month. And the three-bedroom units will be available to residents with a household income of under $91,000 and will be rented for $1,220-$1,725 every month.
Priority will be given to residents who work in Tofino full-time and have been living in the region for two of the last three years. Catalyst Community Developments Society will be taking applications from interested households towards the end of 2021.
According to the Vital Signs report, the region’s living wage is $20.11, making it the third highest living wage in B.C., behind Vancouver and Victoria. The province’s current minimum wage is $15.20 – $4.91 lower than the region’s living wage.
“We’re happy to see affordable housing being advanced in the region,” said Saya Masso, Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation tribal administrator.
In many ways, Scott said that Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation is “ahead of the district” in addressing housing needs with their previous development of Esowista and future expansion plans.
Currently, the nation is in “high-level” discussions with the province on the transfer of several Crown land lots in Tofino.
District lot 124, near Best Western Plus Tin Wis Resort, was transferred to the nation, but they are awaiting five additional lots.
Once the land is transferred to Tla-o-qui-aht, Masso said they will begin the design phase of a sub-development that would target affordable housing for the region in the coming years.
“It is a topic [yet] to be resolved,” he said.
Instead of developing one lot at a time, Masso said the nation is waiting on the land transfer so that they can create a “best use and best opportunity plan for the Crown lots.”
“Affordable housing in Tofino is critically needed,” he said. “Let’s plan the properties properly.”