June 2018

148 149 uously operating shipyards here in Port Alberni,” Ruttan reports. “They started in the early 1900s and CME owns the property now. The original site is awkward; they can’t work on big projects there and they have no room to expand. So, they bought some city-owned property right on the harbor and are in the process of developing it.” The city has undertaken a Sector Diversification by Data Design (SD3) project to address economic diversification. The Province of B.C. pilot program analyzes employment, employment income, and revenue figures by industry, to identify trends taking place in the community between the 2011 and 2016 census periods; seeing which sectors are strongest in growth and then deciding how to support those sectors. “Ocean marine and forest industry are two of those sectors,” says Deakin. “We found that spend- ing on healthcare and education trumps any private sector spending being done in the region. However, there’s another category: Professional, Scientific, and Technical – revenues for the firms that reported under the NAICS (North American Industry Classifies Standard) doubled between 2011 and 2016. Now, we’re going to dive deeper to see what’s going on in the community that’s escaped our attention, because that’s truly signif- icant growth and a very exciting development in our diversification efforts.” Lack of housing inventory and rising prices in Port Alberni have become a major sticking point PORT ALBERNI, BRITISH COLUMBIA for residential growth. “As a municipal area, we had the third highest increase in as- sessed housing values (up an average 22 percent) on Vancouver Island in 2017,” says the Mayor. “And we are still, by far, the most affordable community on the Island. So, we have some fairly large demands in housing because they go on the market and are sold within 24 to 48 hours. Some are sold sight unseen.” The housing shortage presents particular challenges for large employers like Coulson, the school district, and the hospital when they hire new staff. Ruttan says, “We’re hear- ing stories of people who accepted a really good job here and can’t find a place to live, or a seat in school for their children. And they end up having to leave.” The problem also affects the quality of housing for people on the lower end of the scale. Port Alber- ni went from having the highest average household incomes in the province in the ‘70s and ‘80s, to today’s current ranking as one of the lowest. The situation is causing angst in many quarters and reinforces the city’s focus on diversifying the economy. The local senior population is growing and so is the need for suitable accommodation. Some major housing developments on tap will, hopefully, improve the issue. Twen- ty-three acres on the site of the former high school were sold to private developers for a 300-400 million dollar project over the next three to six years. Another housing develop- ment just up the street has 65 lots –over 80 percent were presold when it came online. And two other significant chunks of property for sale in the same area have various de- velopers considering what type of housing would be appropriate. In the downtown core, final reading has just passed on a proposal for an existing mall, where the owner/devel-