Housing prices in the North nearly doubled between 2003 and 2007.?However, the North remains the most affordable place to live in B.C.
On Wednesday the B.C. Northern Real Estate Board released a report on housing affordability in Northern B.C.
An average family would have to spend 31.7 per cent of its pre-tax income on home ownership, compared to the provincial average of 68.5 per cent, board executive director Dorothy Friesen said.
“Families that are working can afford to buy a house in Northern B.C.,” Friesen said. “When it takes only 32 per cent of someone’s income to buy a house, it means there is extra money for consumer spending. That’s a good thing, because consumer spending drives the economy.”
In the North the price of the average single-family house has increased 84 per cent to nearly $240,000.
In Prince George, the average house price grew from approximately $125,000 in 2003 to over $230,000 in 2007. The average family (based on 2001 Census data), was spending just 21 per cent of its income on home ownership in 2003, compared with 32 per cent in 2007.
In Vancouver, the percentage of average household income needed to own a home went from 50 per cent to nearly 74 per cent during the same period. In the North, the most expensive real estate can be found in Fort St. John, with an average home going for over $275,000 in 2007. The cheapest real estate was in Kitimat, with an average home price of $140,000.
Across the North and in Prince George, the biggest jumps in real estate prices took place in 2006 and 2007.
“There is definitely a slow down this year,” Friesen said. “We’re getting more listings, therefore when you have more listings prices moderate.”
Lower real estate prices should be a selling point for Northern communities to attract businesses and workers, she said.
“People who are transferred from the Lower Mainland to the North can buy much more house in the North.”
Community Partners Addressing Homelessness coordinator Kerry Pateman said rising home prices and rental costs have made it even more difficult for people living on small incomes.
“With part-time jobs and low-paying jobs it is pretty hard to sustain rent and food ?or on social services,” Pateman said. “(And) it puts home ownership even further out of the realm of possibility.”
In 2001, 12,365 people in Prince George were living below the low income cut-off point according to census data, she said. When the transient aboriginal population who frequently aren’t counted in census data ?are included, that number increases to 17,000.
A single person on social assistance receives up to $325 per month for rent, she said.
“That hasn’t changed in 10 years.”
There is a segment of the population who are, “spending nearly everything they bring in on rent,” she said.
“It’s a significant problem.”