Many seniors are struggling to keep a roof over their head in the Central Okanagan’s tight rental market. (Stock photo)

Low-income seniors make up 42 per cent of people on Okanagan affordable housing waitlist

Situation will likely become worse as 30,000 more seniors are expected by 2036

Seniors now make up one of the largest demographics of people waiting for affordable rental housing in Kelowna and surrounding communities, according to a newly-released housing assessment by the Regional District of Central Okanagan.

Out of 259 applicants on a BC Housing waitlist for affordable housing in the Central Okanagan, 42 per cent are now low-income seniors.

The assessment also states 30,000 more seniors are expected to be added the Central Okanagan’s population by 2036, which could make housing waitlists even longer if more affordable rentals aren’t introduced into the market.

READ MORE: Despite personal experiences with drugs, homelessness, one Kelowna resident says no to McCurdy site

The assessment said housing pressures are already forcing many seniors out onto Okanagan streets.

“Community consultation indicated that the prospect of seniors potentially losing their homes due to affordability was a major concern,” states the report.

“(The waitlist) issue has led to shelter providers seeing a substantial increase in the number of seniors experiencing homelessness.”

The assessment found seniors are particularly vulnerable to homelessness given their fixed incomes don’t match rising inflation over time.

“Many seniors, as they enter retirement, rely on savings or are on fixed incomes, both of which are largely impacted by the increase in rental prices in the region,” says the report.

Adding to the pressures, the report said single-person households, like seniors, face the greatest challenges in the Central Okanagan rental market.

The assessment shows a single parent in Kelowna has to pay, on average, $1,055 to afford a place to rent.

That number is even higher in West Kelowna, where a single parent can expect to shell out $1,135 for a rental.

Creating better transitional housing with support services, introducing year-round emergency shelter beds and creating more subsidized housing are things the assessment said the city and province need to tackle to help address the housing gap for seniors.

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