The Sunshine Coast’s reputation for housing affordability took another hit recently with the news that Mounties are turning down postings here due to the high housing prices and rents.
RCMP Staff Sgt. Poppy Hallam told the SCRD’s policing committee on July 18 that three experienced members had shown interest in transferring to the Coast but backed out after deciding they “could not financially make it work for their families.” Those three members, Hallam said, could have filled the detachment’s longstanding vacancies. Instead, the continuing labour shortage has become one of its most pressing organizational challenges, made worse by officers sometimes having to stand in for other emergency service providers, who are dealing with the same problem of recruiting personnel owing to the housing crunch.
Since the story broke last week, readers answering our online poll have been almost evenly divided on whether the federal government should offer subsidies to attract and retain RCMP members. Comments under the story have also been divided, with some readers critical of the Mounties in question for being too selective about which neighbourhoods they live in or arguing that their rate of pay should be more than adequate to secure decent housing on the Sunshine Coast. Others are sympathetic and call for more density and more private rentals, noting that the problem extends beyond law enforcement to include health care, trades and other vital occupations. That last point can’t be stressed enough.
All arguments aside, the bottom line is that this community missed the boat on three experienced cops who are badly needed, wanted to be here and could have made important contributions. They are the small tip of a very large iceberg of lost talent encompassing people in all walks of life – professional, entrepreneurial, cultural, you name it – who never came, or left because they could not afford to stay.
There are many capable and dedicated people who operate the businesses and provide the services that help make the Sunshine Coast a quality place to call home, but there are also big gaps in competitiveness and a tendency to attract professionals with built equity who are on the downslope of their careers.
Until our housing becomes more affordable, we will continue to hear complaints about mediocre service, stagnation and lack of long-range vision, because too many good people – especially young people – are being shut out or shown the door.