Housing was a major topic during this evening’s (Thursday) Smithers all candidates debate forum at the Della Herman Theatre.
Eight out of nine council candidates were all in attendance- Adam Koch, Calvin Elliott, Genevieve Patterson, Sam Raven, Jason McCrindle, Nick Briere, John Buikema and Frank Wray were all in attendance.
Laura Leonard was not present at the event.
Additionally, mayoral candidates Gladys Atrill and Murray Hawse were at the forum.
The major issue that got brought up over the course of the evening was the lack of housing in the community.
Councillor Candidate Calvin Eliott said he has seen first hand how the lack of housing has affected the business community.
“Where I work, the West Fraser we’ve had issues where we’ve had people ready to come to work from a different town and they’ve had to say I can’t come because I don’t have a place to live or it’s out of their price range and I think that affects everyone here,” he said.
Mayoral candidate Gladys Atrill said that council does not usually deny housing ideas and when people have a creative idea they work it through.
“When we have partners it works, we need people in not-for -profit and we need people in the private sector, we can’t do this part alone, this again is about working together, what can we do together to address this problem? Council alone is not going to fix this, it’s together that we’ll fix it,” Atrill said.
Mayoral candidate Murray Hawse responded to Atrill’s comment by saying that we do need housing but the Town can’t give land away and then pay for the remediation of it because that would increase taxes.
Additionally, Councillor candidate Adam Koch touched on the subject and said while Town council has done a good job, more needs to be done.
“It’s been an issue and it’s been known for a long time and we should’ve started this sooner so, we need to start focusing on high density because we’re so far behind. I want people to be my age and come back like I did or stay here and raise a family but, there’s just nowhere to stay,” he said.
Among other issues expressed regarding housing was how many spaces are being used for Air BnB’s instead of rental units for those in the community.
Councillor candidate Sam Raven said the last time she looked in the Town of Smithers alone there were over 40 Airbnb units.
“That would be significant for people trying to move here and come here and live here if those were off the Airbnb market and actually in for tenancy,” she said.
Raven added that she would be interested in looking into the idea of having Airbnb’s licensed.
Candidate Jason McCrindle responded by saying he owns one of the units and that as municipality homeowners should not be told what they can and cannot do with their property.
A second advanced poll will be held at the Town of Smithers Office on October 12 with General Election Day on October 15.