When I decided to write about housing for our 2021 Progress edition, I quickly discovered there are numerous facets to the issue—too many to include in one longish article in an annual publication.
(Progress 2021: Women in Industry came out with our June 8 print edition and is available to view in its entirety in our e-editions.)
I learned Port Alberni has some unique features with equally troubling consequences: low costs compared to other places on the Island, which drives up housing prices, making it more difficult for people who already live here to afford rentals or to buy up; lack of housing for seniors to move into; lots of interest about where homeless people should live, but not as many people doing something about it.
One of the questions I heard a lot was “who is buying in Port Alberni?” We can’t put it on foreign owners, because our international border has been closed for more than a year. We have had an influx of Albertans in the past, but the coronavirus pandemic stalled movement.
It’s actually people from Port Alberni who are buying in Port Alberni, says Dion Hopkins, a realtor with Royal LePage Port Alberni Pacific Rim Realty. Hopkins was part of a group of realtors who surveyed buyers in 2020, and said 38 percent were from Port Alberni and another 31 percent were from Vancouver Island.
Only 21 percent came from elsewhere in B.C. to buy, nine percent from elsewhere in Canada and one percent who snuck in internationally.
Forty percent of people buying homes are buying for the first time.
Would you be surprised to discover the largest age group of people buying homes in Port Alberni are millennials?
“It’s exciting from a Port Alberni perspective,” said Hopkins, who also builds homes. “I’m seeing from the home building side of things that people are moving here because they can work remotely.”
For millennials, he said it is the fear of missing out—especially in a hot market—that is driving them to think about setting roots sooner than later. It’s the “if they don’t get in now they’re never going to get in” mentality. They’re also more willing to think outside the single-storey rancher box for their housing needs, he added.
It’s bringing in young, vibrant people who want to raise their families here, and see Port Alberni as a possibility, not past its prime.
Susie Quinn is the Alberni Valley News editor.