There’s no place like home

Homesick and wanting to return to Kansas from Oz, Dorothy clicked her ruby red heels together. “There’s no place like home,” she said.

“Home” is a powerful word. It’s where our soul and spirit thrive – raising a family, working, and pursuing our ambition, passion, and happiness.

But the Kootenay is full of folks with two homes. In Columbia Valley, 50% of dwellings are seasonally owned. A winter Valley population of 9500 swells to 23,000 in the summer. Very significant investment in the Columbia Valley comes from Alberta and seasonal property owners.

In the Kootenays we tend to leave these kinds of facts on the table without considering how to leverage it. It’s time for us to be thinking more boldly in the Kootenays. Think of recreational property owners as THE most significant economic development strategy for population growth and investment attraction. We just need to convince them to make a secondary home a primary one.

The pitch goes something like this:

“Our community is a desirable place to live for our connection to people and place. We are more affordable. We live life better than large, more soul-less, Dilbert-esque urban centres where you might wonder what your purpose is in life, and what makes you happy in pursuit of the meaning of life. Millennials and younger generations – we know you are looking for places where you can’t buy a home, or if you do the mortgage feels like a ball and chain around your ankle. We know active outdoor living is alluring. A pandemic has culturally and corporately liberated you to work remotely…on your own terms. Entrepreneurs and creators – you can live wherever you wish as a matter of lifestyle choice – at the end of a good Internet connection. We are lifestyle-led living in the Kootenays. Make your life happen!”

Can we connect these dots in the Kootenays? The answer is “yes”, in these key ways:

  • Gather and communicate to permanent residents the facts about the presence of seasonal owners – and tourism – in your community. How many homes they own. What businesses they are invested in. Build community embrace of these folks in your community. Many community economies would suffer greatly without their presence.
  • Gather and communicate to seasonal property owners the facts about the cost difference of moving: personal and property taxes, insurance, healthcare, and cost of living comparison (Statistics Canada) primary among these.
  • Seasonal owners are “owners” just like permanent residents feel that word. Ask them; their soul is in the Kootenays. They have a second home in the Kootenays because they want to. They work elsewhere because they have to. Make this emotional connection with seasonal owners.
  • Think about industry sector network development, investment co-ops and shared spaces…the kinds of tools that help build investment connections and spaces that enable and connect remote digital workers, tele-commuters and other foundational elements of a more decentralized economy.
  • Many seasonal owners will consider spending more/full-time and/or work in the Kootenays. Examples based on survey work: in Canal Flats it represents 25% of population and 100% workforce growth. In Radium Hot Springs 70% and 50% respectively. Communities need to identify and work on community development initiatives that influence this decision. In Canal Flats it’s more commercial services, lake access and in-community recreation amenity. In Radium Hot Springs it’s more-better community events, a medi-centre, and more commercial services. Advanced broadband is a must and can be better in the Kootenays.
  • Build connections to the entrepreneurs and creators among seasonal owners. They are a wellspring of imagination and capital needed to bring new business ideas to life. Think big and beyond to an economy of tomorrow: forestry fibre, agrifood, technology, and advanced manufacturing.
  • Innovate in housing. Get home-based business red tape out of the way. Develop enabling policy for smaller, mixed use, work-live and other forms that offer a cheaper way to converge living and working.  

However permanent or seasonal we are, we share love of the same place and people. Build fewer walls and more bridges. Empower the transformative and exceptional that’s already there…in your backyard.

In other words, take people’s homes…to heart.

Chris Fields

Economic Development Officer

Village of Canal Flats