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Richmond employers hit by housing unaffordability crisis: survey

87% of respondents said it has impacted their ability to recruit talent
Photo: Delta Optimist

Employers in Richmond are increasingly unable to recruit and keep workers due to the city’s high cost of housing, according to a recent Richmond Chamber of Commerce survey.

Eighty-seven per cent of business owners who responded to the survey said housing affordability has “moderately or significantly” impacted their ability to recruit talent – the number has risen from 62 per cent in 2016.

“This is a very concerning jump,” said Barbara Tinson, chair of the Richmond Chamber.

“To have a 25 per cent increase in employers who are feeling squeezed by housing in just two and a half years, you have to sit up and take notice.”

The survey also showed that 76 per cent of employers responded are struggling to retain employees due to housing affordability, a 16 per cent increase from 2016.

Grant Bryan, co-owner of O’Hare’s Gastropub & Liquor Store in Steveston, said the increasing cost of housing and the shrinking pool of available rentals have forced a number of their long-term staff to move out of Richmond, “despite our increasing wages to try and keep pace.

“The lack of high speed transit and lengthy commute times, primarily due to the Massey Tunnel chaos, has made the commute virtually impossible for many,” said Bryan.

“This is causing a recruitment crisis for a family business like ours.”

Larger employers are feeling the pinch too, with John Nagy of the Reid Hurst Nagy CPA firm noting only seven out of 40 employees and partners live in Richmond.

“Our staff are educated individuals, most with university degrees and many with professional designations,” said Nagy.

“When we are recruiting, the quality of our culture, the work environment, and the overall compensation package have to outweigh the traffic issues they will encounter having to cross the river on a bridge or in a tunnel.”

In addition, the majority of respondents felt that all three levels of government have been responding poorly to this issue.

“… the most immediate action can be taken at the municipal level. We must drastically improve not only the processing times, but also the certainty of the development application process. And we urgently need to create more diverse housing options in Richmond,” said Tinson.

“Furthermore, none of this matters if we cannot move goods and people in and out of Richmond.

“Improved employee hiring and retention begins with the immediate redevelopment of the George Massey corridor, used by tens of thousands of employees who commute daily to Richmond.”