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State of the Basin Reports highlights Fernie’s Strengths

Posted by: FernieChamber
Thursday, May 3, 2018
The Rural Development Institute State of the Basin reports on four pillars environment, economy, culture, and society. Drawing on federal, provincial, regional, and local resources, RDI compiles a comprehensive look at communities in the Basin (Columbia-Basin-Boundary Region). I spent an afternoon reading this document. I found Fernie often at the top or bottom of scales. It rarely shows up in the middle. The report points to how our success as a community is also the cause of our biggest challenges. In the end, we see that Fernie has a great foundation on which to build. 
While reading the section on workforce, Fernie is 4th in average income at $90,580 per household – good news. Juxtapose to that, we are also on the top of the Gini Coefficient scale. The Gini Coefficient ratio measures inequality in high income to low income earners. Our high incomers (mining and public sector) make a lot more than our low incomers (tourism and hospitality). I doubt this comes as a surprise to anyone. That said, tourism does offer opportunities to make career wages and should not be discredited. But it’s not all doom and gloom. The Low Income Measure (LIM) is a commonly-used indicator of poverty. It is adjusted for household size (typically a house with more people in it needs more money). The provincial average is 15%. This is a list Fernie is at the bottom of siting around 7%. 
Moving onto housing. The report gives one of the few quantitative looks at our housing market. RDI completed a custom data request from CMHC that provided vacancy rates and average rents. Fernie’s 2017 vacancy rate is less than 2%, dropping from 3.5% in 2016. A side note, the report shows 26% of Fernie residents rent, this is below the provincial and federal average of 32%. We should ask, why aren’t people renting in Fernie. Have they found ways to purchase or are they choosing to rent elsewhere in the valley? 
Fernie had the largest growth of basin communities growing 15.3% between 2011 and 2016 census. And we’ve added 1000 people since 2006. With this growth and a tight rental market, all eyes will be watching new home starts. Households in Fernie as per the 2016 census average 2.36 persons. In 10 years, we averaged 100 new residents. If this pace continues, Fernie will need 42 new houses a year. The new 35 unit housing project announced by Fernie Family Housing and CBT will help with 2018’s need, but it still falls short of our total need. The seven months of 2017 building reports on the City’s website report 25 single family permits, 3 duplex permits, and 3 secondary suite permits (31 units). This suggests a deficit in housing starts to keep up with our population growth. One could suggest we need to add another 30% to this number (54 housing units per year) to meet the second home owner market as 73% of our dwelling units are occupied by people who live here year-round (2016 Stats Canada). 
The State of the Basin gives a comprehensive view of our community and how it fits in with the large basin region. The report highlights our strengths. As a community, we are poised to take advantage of these strengths. However, there is work to do. We need to keep pushing as a community to resolve the challenges that come with our success. This includes building more housing and attracting employment offers higher wages. The Chamber will reference this tool as it works on housing discussions, business supports, and investment attraction.
 
You can find the full State of the Basin Report here: http://datacat.cbrdi.ca/StateOfTheBasin-FullReport-2017
 

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