A lack of affordable housing prompts a Vernon, BC company to buy employee housing

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

A Vernon, BC company has now decided to purchase staff housing to help employees find housing.

At the same time, the owners of The Roster Sports Club Bar and Grill, a sports bar and racquet club, hope the housing supply will also help recruit new workers.

“Finding affordable housing in Vernon is a major challenge right now and in some cases is even becoming a barrier for companies to hire,” said owner Anya Hollands.

“[It’s] It’s just incredibly difficult to find something at a price they can afford and it’s just incredibly difficult to find accommodation that is generally decent accommodation.”

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As the business expanded and additional staff was hired, the owners decided to purchase apartments that will be able to accommodate some of the employees.

“We bought a property consisting of two legal two-bedroom suites, so the intent is to offer housing at an affordable monthly rate that includes all utilities and internet,” Hollands said.

“We don’t consider this to be revenue generation. Basically, we see this as an investment in our employees to provide them with affordable housing.”

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The Vernon Chamber of Commerce says the number one concern for local businesses is attracting and retaining employees, and high housing costs are a big part of that.

“We understand employers will still need to take steps like buying staff housing just to maintain staffing levels. However, this comes at a significant cost to businesses and many are unwilling to be a landlord in addition to running their businesses,” Robin Cardew, president of the Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce, said in a statement.

“The housing crisis is complex and no single measure will solve the problem, but we continue to urge federal, provincial and local governments to be creative and bold and work with the private sector to increase the number of homes within reach.”

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

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

“We’ve lost a lot of employees during the pandemic and I think providing housing, providing flexible working hours, [and] Work-life balance belongs to the future. So I think you’re going to see more and more of that.”

Back at the sports club, the company expects its squash pro to move into the company building in September and hopes that the housing offer will also help to recruit new kitchen staff.


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