Lack of affordable housing prompts Vernon, B.C. business to buy staff accommodation | RiseNB

Lack of affordable housing prompts Vernon, B.C. business to buy staff accommodation

It’s another example of how unaffordable housing is impacting life in the Okanagan.

One Vernon, B.C., business has now opted to buy staff accommodation to help workers find a place to live.

At the same time, the owners of The Roster Sports Club Bar and Grill, a sports bar and racquet club, are also hoping the housing offer helps recruit new workers.

“Finding affordable housing in Vernon is such a challenge right now and it is actually becoming a hurdle, in some cases, for businesses to recruit employees,” said owner Anya Hollands.

“[It’s] Just incredibly difficult to find anything at a rate that was affordable to them and just incredibly difficult to find a place, in general, that was decent accommodation.”

So with the business expanding and hiring additional staff, the owners decided to purchase housing that will be able to accommodate some of the employees.

“We purchased a property which is two legal two bedroom suites so the intention is to provide housing at an affordable monthly rate that includes all the utilities and internet,” Hollands said.

“We are not looking at this as a revenue-generating. We are looking at this basically as an investment in our employees to provide an affordable housing option.”

Vernon’s chamber of commerce says the number one issue for local businesses is attracting and retaining staff and the high cost of housing is a big part of that.

“We anticipate that employers will continue to have to take steps like purchasing employee housing just to maintain staffing levels. However, that comes at a significant cost for businesses, and many are not prepared to also be landlords beyond running their businesses,” said Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce president Robin Cardew, in a statement.

“The housing crunch is complex and no one action will solve the problem, but we continue to call on the federal, provincial, and local governments to be creative and bold and to work with the private sector to increase attainable housing.”

However, for those businesses that are willing and able to provide housing, the president of the BC Restaurant and Foodservices Association sees it as a smart move.

“Where the industry is going now is trying to create long-term employment relationships with our employees,” said association president Ian Tostenson.

“We lost a lot of employees during the pandemic and I think that providing housing, providing flexible work schedules, [and] work-life balance is all part of the future. So I think you are going to see more and more of this.”

Back at the sports club, the business is expecting its squash pro to move into the company house in September and is hoping the housing offer also helps recruit new kitchen staff.

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