Outlook readers who may wonder how it is that the issue of affordability in our valley is raised over, and over, and over again, need look no further than page 25 for an answer.
This week, we are unhappy to report that after more than 30 years in Canmore, CAUSE Canada has closed its doors in favour of a more affordable business/housing climate in Calgary.
Yes, that’s the same CAUSE Canada, founded by Paul and Bev Carrick, that raised millions of dollars over the years to assist under funded communities in Africa and Central America; which helped put Canmore on the map as a destination with its annual Rocky Mountain Marathon (now half marathon) and is a Christmas fixture in Canmore at tree selling time. The Carrick’s reach in the community goes far beyond these items, of course.
While the Carricks founded CAUSE in their hometown, it seems likely, perhaps inevitable, that at some point the organization would look elsewhere for more affordable digs. NGOs, after all, are not known for showering six-figure salaries on frontline staff.
Like many businesses in the valley, it became difficult for CAUSE to attract, then retain, staff due to Canmore’s high cost of living. This is not a new story or issue; our schools have struggled with declining enrolment, many businesses face constant staff turnover due to the high cost of Bow Valley living and there’s little doubt that affordability is a barrier to new businesses starting up in the valley.
CAUSE Canada will be missed in Canmore, as the organization was one of several that added an international flavour in town. The half marathon will continue, but other CAUSE happenings may dwindle with an office located in the metropolis to the east.
In the end, though, Canmore’s economic climate in 1984, when the Carricks founded CAUSE, is certainly not the economic climate of 2017. The Carricks founded their organization prior to the 1988 Olympics, which altered Canmore forever when many realized what a tiny Rocky Mountain gem the town was.
Since then, the prevalence of development of all kinds, of so many purchases of second homes and the creation of a large part-time community, has changed the face of Canmore for good.
In 1984, for example, the $2.3 million recently spent on a bare lot purchase could have bought up a wide swath of properties. For those who needed rental accommodation, a zero per cent vacancy rate was likely unheard of – let alone a room renting for hundreds of dollars monthly.
So, should the subject of affordable housing, or Bow Valley affordability in general, arise at one of the upcoming election forums, you may want to listen careful to candidate responses.
The issue of affordability in this valley, after all, is not going away any time soon.
Should affordability not be dealt with at some point, there is absolutely no doubt that local businesses, small businesses in particular, will continue to struggle with staffing issues, families will continue to leave as they find the cost of living simply too high for their budget and thoughts of economic diversification may simply fall into the ‘if only’ category.
Affordability, in all its guises, must be considered, planned for and hopefully dealt with by our towns continuing to develop afford housing options, in particular, that result in a community for everyone.