Residents interested in sharing their thoughts and concerns about the future of Kelowna had a chance to do so with Mayor Colin Basran, on Tuesday.
Young business professionals and members of the Kelowna community were invited to attend a luncheon with Mayor Basran from 12 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Coast Capri Hotel.
The topics centred around improving residents’ quality of life, transportation options and housing issues, as well as how to attract and retain younger people in the city.
The consensus from the young professionals is that there’s not enough attainable housing, public transit is not as efficient as it needs to be and that the quality of life in the Okanagan is solid, but could also be better.
On the topic of quality of life, many in the room acknowledged Kelowna has much to offer in the department of wineries and breweries, as well as outdoor recreation activities. Although, some felt Kelowna should have more entertainment options beyond events that involve alcohol.
“I think where we can improve is creating more community centers that people can go that doesn’t focus on drinking,” said Sonya Barker, board director of creative Okanagan. “I think for the 20 to 40 year olds there’s no clear venue of where we can gather, meet like-minded people and do more diverse activities.”
In response, Basran said one of the city’s key focuses in the recently adopted cultural plan is the creation of spaces. With that he noted that council is working to decide whether the new space for events will be privately owned or funded through the city.
UBCO student union president Romil Jain spoke on behalf of his fellow students, stating the need for better transportation and more affordable student housing. Jain said students have a hard time finding affordable housing with appropriate transit connections. Currently, a three-bedroom unit near the university goes for about $2,700 t0 $3,000 per month.
“We’re going to have neighbourhoods where the population density doesn’t justify spending the money to run a partially full or even empty bus for a few students,” said Basran. “So, that’s why we can’t have a conversation without transportation without it being connected to land use.”
Basran also addressed the crowd about the loss of jobs from industry leaders such as Tolko, which is set to close its doors permanently in 2020 after 84 years in business.
He said other than making the city a more affordable place to do business there’s not much it can do to address the issue of fewer jobs and lower wages in the Okanagan.