West Kelowna council Image: City of West Kelowna

West Kelowna looks to better housing for farm workers

Council Members want to ‘come into the 21st Century’ with taking care of temporary workers

West Kelowna city council unanimously approved second reading of a bylaw addressing the quality of life for migrant workers.

Nancy Henderson, general manager of development services, and Dallas Clowes, senior planner city of West Kelowna, told council the need to improve living standards for temporary agricultural worker housing by mandating proper washrooms, showers and kitchens for workers living in tents and vehicles. adjustments are aimed at addressing complaints about substandard farm housing.

“If this stops a farmer from thinking that a garden hose in the back of the shed qualifies as a shower for their migrant workers it has done it’s job in my mind,” Coun. Rick de Jong said.

Related:West Kelowna wants public input on farm worker housing

Council also proposed to raise the fine for bylaw infractions from $500 to $1,000 — the maximum fine permitted —which will be put in effect in August.

“I think this is something we do need to do and it’s time to come into the 21st Century,” Mayor Doug Findlater said. “We are a community that has a lot of agriculture, we are a pro agriculture council.”

However, in the amendment to the bylaw, council wanted to ensure the housing created and updated is for the temporary workers and not given to farm workers by restricting the stay in the housing for working to be eight months and the possibility of changing it to 10 months out of the year which has received mixed reactions from council as to how the bylaws will be enforced.

Coun. Bryden Winsby voiced his concern about the enforcement of the new amendments to the bylaws.

“The enforcement and inspection by whom? Is this complaint driven?” Coun. Winsby said.

Related:Large farm worker housing plan set for approval

Due to staff resources and management there is no ability to enforce through regular checks.

The development of a regional standard and community delegation to West Kelowna Council was made in August 2017 to review the regulations regarding temporary worker housing due to infractions and illegal occurrences according to the council agenda. Meetings with local land owners were held in in January to receive feedback and a survey was also put to the general community to get their feedback earlier this year.

A public hearing for the bylaw will soon be scheduled.

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