PRINCE GEORGE, B.C. – University of Northern British Columbia launched a new online housing information portal this week, providing population and housing data for 39 non-metropolitan communities in the province, including northeast municipalities.

The website is a result of a two-year study conducted by the Community Development Institute (CDI) and funded by BC Housing. The portal has detailed data reports, webinar recordings by regions, conference presentations, and articles published in magazines and journals.

The reports feature data compiled from Statistics Canada’s census program between 1981 to 2016, identifying consistent patterns of housing issues across non-metropolitan BC and Canada.

Issues discovered revolve around the age of housing stock, the condition of housing stock, energy-efficiency of housing stock, and tenant affordability.

“The data will be of significant interest to local government, planners, developers, builders, and the provincial government,” said CDI Co-Director Marleen Morris, who led the study for the CDI.

“We highlight the strong links between housing and economic development potential in non-metropolitan B.C. We need to focus on housing if we want to realize non-metropolitan B.C.’s economic potential.”

The website states that more data is needed to inform housing programs and policies to fill housing gaps.

UNBC researchers say the state of housing has become a key constraint on economic and community development in non-metropolitan B.C.

Researchers found that the housing stock is out of step with population trends.

The study found that there has been an increase in one- and two-person households, due to more empty nesters and young people delaying having children. There has been a decrease in four- and more person households.

In the housing stock, there is an undersupply of one- and two-bedroom units and an oversupply of four- and more bedroom units. Seniors looking to downsize and young people looking for a small starter home have trouble finding what they need or want.

According to the study, 40 per cent of tenants in non-metropolitan BC are considered vulnerable, meaning they pay more than 30 per cent of their income on rent. The rental housing stock is in worse condition than Vancouver, in 80 per cent of sample communities, the study said.