‘There’s just nothing’: Gros Morne area housing shortage a ‘burning issue’ for tourism operators, workers they can’t attract and local residents

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ROCKY HARBOUR, NL — Housing is an issue in the Gros Morne area and it affects the tourism industry in terms of attracting labor and residents seeking long-term housing.

“It’s totally a burning question. It’s as hot as the car shortage,” said Colleen Kennedy, chief executive of the Gros Morne Co-operating Association.

With about 85% of tourism-related businesses now open, Kennedy said there were ads everywhere for places looking for workers.

“And what’s holding us back is housing.” she says.

“It’s actually a big challenge for us now to develop the industry because of the labor shortage, and we can’t address this labor shortage without housing.”


Restaurants across the province are struggling to find workers and this is affecting what they can offer customers. – Splash-free photo

To attract and retain people, Kennedy said, the quality of life that is offered must be examined, and that includes housing.

“We compete globally for this job market, so we want to make sure their experience is positive and makes them want to come back,” she said.

“We need spaces for workers, period. If we want to develop the industry, the wall we have to climb right now is the housing wall. »

Kennedy is working on a partnership, in which she wants to include the park and the local business community, to approach housing in the area as a group.

She would like to start a pilot project in the form of an employee housing complex, but there is a problem.


“We need spaces for workers, period. If we want to develop the industry, the wall we have to climb right now is the housing wall. »
—Colleen Kennedy


Most programs that address housing do so from a social rather than an economic perspective. This means there is no funding.

“And I think it’s something that in order for the province to grow the industry, they need to address with the industry the housing shortage for workers and the labor shortage. They go together.

“We need to start tackling social and economic issues together,” Kennedy said.


Colleen Kennedy, executive director of the Gros Morne Co-operating Association.  - Contributed
Colleen Kennedy, executive director of the Gros Morne Co-operating Association. – Contributed

“Call for tenders” for workers

Todd Wight owns the Ocean View Hotel. It is one of Rocky Harbor’s main employers during the tourist season, and the lack of available housing in the town makes it difficult for Wight to find workers.

“In a typical year, we would have people wanting to come here to work and explore while they were working,” he said.

But this year, it’s a challenge to bring people in, and it’s a problem that other hosts are also experiencing.

“Obviously, tourism is the premium industry for accommodation and naturally when an industry starts to grow, a housing crisis occurs,” he said.

“The nature of all of this is that our cities, our natural populations, are in decline and the populations of our young people are in decline. So in trying to fill positions when people retire, we now have to look outward.


Todd Wight, owner of the Ocean View Hotel in Rocky Harbour, had to get creative with finding housing for the workers.  – SaltWire Network file photo
Todd Wight, owner of the Ocean View Hotel in Rocky Harbour, had to get creative with finding housing for the workers. – SaltWire Network file photo


Students available to work have plenty of options compared to other years, and starting salaries have gone from $12.50 to $13 an hour in 2019 to $15 and $16 now.

“Everyone is making an offer for the workers,” Wight said.

“So we face two major battles – one is accommodation, and the other is the cost of commuting to work.”

To attract workers, Wight offers incentives like fuel assistance for out-of-town workers, a hotel catering program, and housing.

As for the hosting part, Wight said they had to buy and manage their own.

“We had to incorporate this into our business planning.”

He has workers who will be staying in RVs for the season, and he has purchased a small mobile home to house others.


“…we face two major battles – one is housing and the other is the cost of commuting to work.”
—Todd Wight


He is also looking at other options, such as dorms or dormitory-style accommodations.

“We need to have more places available.

He’s interested to see what comes out of the work that Kennedy is doing.

Besides the need for accommodation for workers, Wight also sees the impact of the situation on residents.

“Residents here who are renting need places to rent.”

This can be difficult to find as many of the rentals available in the area that offer long stays from September to May switch to short stays during the peak summer months.

Wight said there are far more opportunities for renting by the night than renting by the month.

Kennedy sees it too.

“Anything worthwhile here is worthwhile for the visitor not the local because they get more per night on their Airbnb,” she said.

Sometimes this forces locals to look for a place to live in the summer.

“I feel for the residents,” Wight said. “It’s tough. I just see everyone posting and advertising everyday looking for places to stay and there’s just nothing.


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