You think growth has hit the Tri-Cities hard? Schools crowded, highways jammed, cost of housing insane? Try living on B.C.’s north coast, where the frenzy surrounding provincial plans for liquid natural gas projects has seen average rents in Kitimat leap from $450 a month in 2010 to $1,800 now. Family homes in the area have jumped from $160,000 to $228,000 — more than 40 per cent — in just two years.
Selina Robinson, MLA for Coquitlam-Maillardville and opposition critic for local municipalities, hits the road today (Wednesday) to collect stories of those cities’ needs.
She’ll be in Kitimat, Terrace and Prince Rupert for six days gathering information to help her advocate for citizens in resource districts when the legislature reconvenes in October, Robinson told the Tri-Cities NOW.
“These communities will have the onerous task of having to figure out how to adjust to a 50-to-100-per-cent increase in residents and workers in the next few years. Imagine your community doubling in size in just two years,” she said. In Terrace, the city’s first official homeless count this year found at least 50 people without a roof over their heads.
Many of those towns and cities are scrambling to figure out how to provide the schools, roads, hospitals, housing and infrastructure for a population that might double in the next few years and then drop off when the boom fades.
“Surrey is growing by 1,600 a month, and that’s strained growth (for them). This isn’t the same as Tri-Cities growth. This is temporary growth.
“If it’s temporary workers for just five years, how do you bring water in? Is there a reno-viction issue? What does it mean to people who work in pharmacies, hair salons, grocery stores? It has an impact. We can’t pretend it doesn’t. The question is how to mitigate it,” said Robinson, a former Coquitlam city councillor. “In my experience, local government officials and city managers know what needs to happen. What are their top three issues, how much money is needed? I want to talk with them about those specific things.”
Robinson said she aims to raise the issues in October as the government lays out its plans for LNG growth and associated revenue for the province.
“The Liberals are saying there will be no money ‘til the projects are built and generating revenue, but the city can’t do it before. So it’s the cart and the horse,” Robinson said.
Last month, northwestern municipal governments struck an alliance to negotiate for potential billions in revenues from the expected resource boom. The government has said revenues will be large enough to support a $100-billion prosperity fund in the next three decades. The alliance said that a revenue share of just three per cent would generate $3 billion to invest in their communities.