Richmond City Centre. (Wikimedia Commons)

Richmond businesses struggle to hire and keep staff because of high cost of housing

Chamber of commerce calls for diverse housing options, redevelopment of George Massey corridor

Recruiting and retaining employees in Richmond is more troublesome than it was two years ago, employers are reporting.

According to a member survey conducted by the Richmond Chamber of Commerce and released this week, 87 per cent of business owners who track such data said housing affordability has affected their ability to recruit talented workers.

That’s a 25-per-cent increase over that of the same survey conducted in 2016.

“This is a very concerning jump,” said chamber chair Barbara Tinson. “To have a 25-per-cent increase of employers who are feeling squeezed by housing in just two and a half years, you have to sit up and take notice.”

Retaining employees is also more problematic. The December 2018 survey showed 76 per cent of employers who track such data are struggling to retain talented employees because of housing affordability – a 16-per-cent uptick from 2016.

“As a direct result of the increasing cost of housing in Richmond and the shrinking pool of available rentals, we have lost a number of long-term staff who have been forced to live out of the Richmond area, despite our increasing wages to try and keep pace,” said Grant Bryan, co-owner of O’Hare’s Gastropub & Liquor Store on Steveston Highway.

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

READ MORE: 10-lane George Massey bridge too big, B.C. study says

Larger employers are feeling the pinch too. John Nagy of the Reid Hurst Nagy CPA said out of his 40 “well paid” employees and partners in Richmond, only seven actually live there.

“It’s a challenge as a Richmond-based company to find people. Population growth is south of the Fraser and people don’t want to commute across the river,” said Nagy.

“I know that one of our senior managers lives in Langley and his commute can be anywhere from 40 minutes to an hour and a half depending on what’s going on on the Alex Fraser Bridge or the other bridges.”

Despite the new speculation and vacancy taxes and 2018 increases to the foreign buyer’s tax in B.C., a strong majority of survey respondents felt all three levels of government were responding poorly to the affordable housing issue.

“We believe that all three levels of government must work in collaboration to bring a diversity of new and affordable housing options to the market on the fastest timeline possible,” said Tinson.

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

Black Press Media has reached out to the City of Richmond for comment.

READ MORE: Want to avoid the speculation tax on your vacant home? Rent it out, Horgan says

READ MORE: NDP cracks down on speculators, hidden ownership

Chamber president and CEO Matt Pitcairn said he hopes to discuss the corridor with Transportation Minister Claire Trevena when his board is in Victoria on Feb. 19 for Budget Day.

“As ever, we will be advocating for improvements to be made to the George Massey corridor on the fastest possible timeline,” Pitcairn said.

Even as the housing market has softened in recent months, the chamber said, the median price for all Richmond residential real estate is still $793,000.



karissa.gall@blackpress.ca

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