In the picturesque mountain town of Canmore, Alberta, one of the busiest places is the parking lot behind the grocery store and rec center where dozens of cars, vans, RVs and trucks park behind Save-On-Foods and Elevation Place, sometimes for months on end, reported CBC News in Calgary.
Though Canmore is trying to address its affordable housing shortage – average home price in Canmore is $676,093 – the town is considered the least affordable in the province, as determined by a recent study that compared wages with home prices. The average two-bedroom rental is nearly $2,000 per month – an increase of 10% over the previous year.
The town is trying to make housing more accessible, said Lisa Brown, the town’s community social development manager, by adding more affordable housing and support for lower-income residents. In the short term, staff are trying to make the campers feel welcome. “It’s a desirable location and it has a finite space to grow, and because of that, those tend to have increased housing prices with it.”
The town has removed and decided not to enforce the “no overnight camping” signs and it’s added a portable washroom.
Other campers said they were trying to save money while exploring the beauty around Canmore, so close to Banff National Park, and the many nearby hikes and climbs.
She said staff has looked at how British Columbia has dealt with its precariously housed camping population, and they’ve decided they can’t simply move campers. “All you’re doing is moving the problem and you’re not fixing that social safety net,” Brown said.
Instead, they will continue trying to make people safe for now and tackle the bigger housing crisis to “keep that vibrant community” of people of all socioeconomic levels living in the town, she said.