Quesnel’s housing crisis

October 14, 2020
Council Column

Quesnel has been in the news recently because of our housing “crisis”. While the term crisis gets bandied about a lot these days, if you’re desperately looking for housing appropriate to your needs and you can’t find it, that’s a critical need our community is not meeting.

The reality is, Quesnel’s housing situation has presented challenges for many years. The West Quesnel Land Stability issue has constrained development and investment in a large portion of our community for decades, most other neighbourhoods are land constrained or have undeveloped properties that have been historically too expensive to subdivide.

Our long standing lower than average house prices and rental rates have also presented a strong disincentive for housing construction. Why would developers build here for only nominal returns when they can invest in high growth, quick return markets in the Lower Mainland or the Okanagan?

And, until very recently, Quesnel did not support the development of legal secondary suites or laneway houses as a way to address our land challenges and expand housing options for renters.

All of the factors listed above have resulted in Quesnel having an aged housing stock, many poor quality rental units, and a mismatch between buyers needs and available housing options.

This situation was known to Council and we developed a comprehensive housing strategy to start addressing this need while making significant changes to our Official Community Plan and Master Zoning Bylaw to ensure these did not present roadblocks to the development of a full range of housing options in every neighbourhood in the City. However, two other emerging crises have recently exacerbated Quesnel’s long-standing housing challenges: the affordability crisis, and the COVID-19 pandemic.

About three years ago, in part as a result of the City’s new branding and community marketing initiative, Quesnel’s affordable housing became the answer to the “affordability crisis” of more and more people. This influx of new residents to Quesnel put inflationary pressures on house prices, created some mini bidding wars, and stimulated our economy, particularly in the home renovation sector.  COVID has greatly increased this trend of in-migration, putting significantly more pressure on our housing supply.

The influx of new people to Quesnel is quite dramatic. I spoke to one retailer the other day who noted that over a period of a few days almost all her customers were new to town. And, there’s no evidence that this in-migration is being offset by any substantial out-migration. The result is that more and more people are struggling to find housing; both those who have just moved here and those who have been here for some time but need to move within the community.

Council is very aware of this critical need in our community and we’re working hard to address it with the limited tools at our disposal. Currently, we have a person dedicated to the implementation of our housing strategy who is actively trying to attract all forms of housing development in Quesnel, connect developers to landowners, and work with City staff to overcome any hurdles to accelerating housing development.

If you are interested in exploring options for new housing development in Quesnel, please contact Anna Rankin at If you own a home and wish to develop a legal suite in your home or secondary dwelling on your property please contact Building Department at 250-992-2111 or

Mayor Bob Simpson

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