Banff town council is promising affordable housing is a priority for the small mountain town, a day after a homeless tourism industry worker spoke out about being forced to spend nights in the local McDonald's.

"It's difficult and it's heartbreaking because here's someone who wants to be in our community, has found a job and unfortunately, just can't find the accommodation to go with it," Coun. Grant Canning told the CBC's Homestretch.

"But, if I'm being honest, that's not unusual."

The small town is tucked in a national park and covers fewer than four square kilometres. Its main industry, tourism, brings in almost 1,000 temporary staff to the community of about 8,000 permanent residents, the town council says.

0% vacancy

Typically, Banff draws more than three million visitors a year, but this summer, is seeing more travellers due to the Canada 150 anniversary free parks admission promotion. The staffing needs to accommodate the influx are exacerbating an already acute housing shortage, Canning said.

'Most people who are looking for a job in town tend to be on their own.' - Banff councillor Grant Canning

Town council has made housing a priority and is expecting an affordable housing complex to open late next year, he said.

The town currently has had a zero per cent vacancy rate for several years.

Meanwhile, low wage earners are left with few options and often are forced to resort to couch surfing, camping in public places or resting until dawn in all-night fast-food restaurants.

Josh Smith in Banff

Josh Smith arrived in Banff from New Brunswick in June. He’s checking online listings every day for a place to rent. (Falice chin/CBC)

Josh Smith of New Brunswick, who spoke out about the crisis on Monday, found a job almost immediately when he arrived in Banff and now makes $15 an hour. But he hasn't been able to find a roof over his head for what he can afford — $800 a month.

Canning, who runs a coffee house on top of his council duties, says business owners also are being impacted by the housing crunch.

"The ongoing issue that most people have been having — very similar to me but just on larger scales — is that they're trying to find staff and when they do have good applicants who come, they can't really accommodate them all," he said.

"So what that generally means is, most people who are looking for a job in town tend to be on their own [for housing]."


With files from the CBC's Homestretch