CP builds its own affordable housing for workers in bustling British Columbia city

Revelstoke Mayor Gary Sulz (at left) and Canadian Pacific Vice President of Human Resources and Chief Culture Officer Chad Rolstad visited the housing construction site. Canadian Pacific

By Jeff Stagl, Managing Editor 

From the late 1800s to mid-1900s, many railroads built section houses and dormitories to provide housing for workers who carried out their tasks far from home. By 1960, that practice mostly ended. 

Now, Canadian Pacific is building something similar for its workers in Revelstoke, but for an entirely different reason: an extreme need for more employees and more affordable housing in the area. The railroad is constructing two apartment buildings in the southeastern British Columbia city. 

Like all the Class Is, CP is seeking to hire thousands of workers — including conductors, track laborers, heavy-duty mechanics and signal maintainers — due to continuing traffic growth. That includes a goal to add 100 employees in Revelstoke, a picturesque hamlet in the Columbia Mountains that’s been growing in popularity as a great place to live or visit. The city serves as a major crew, engineering and infrastructure support location for the railroad. 

Revelstoke was founded in the 1880s when CP built track through the area and mining was a bustling industry. Since then, the city’s population and economy have grown steadily as tourism, forestry, construction and retail became vital economic contributors. 

But the influx of people has created a cost-of-living tipping point — the supply of available homes and apartments in Revelstoke is extremely tight and real estate market values continue to skyrocket, so housing costs have shot up. For example, the monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment typically exceeds $1,500. 

Housing costs are turning people away from the city and causing worker shortages at many area businesses. That won’t cut it for CP, which plans to increase its number of employees in Revelstoke by 25%, from 300 to 400. 

So, in spring, the railroad began building the apartment buildings to create its own affordable housing options for workers. The two-story buildings will be located on CP-owned land near its yard in Revelstoke. 

Revelstoke Workers The railroad plans to hire 100 additional workers in Revelstoke, including track laborers, conductors and signal maintainers. Canadian Pacific

To be completed in early 2023, the buildings will include 48 one-bedroom, fully furnished units with on-site parking. Intended as a short-term housing option, each apartment will feature 600 to 700 square feet of living space. 

The units will be available to workers for a low monthly rent, CP officials said in an email. 

“[We] began building the employee accommodations in Revelstoke because the company is aware of the community's challenging vacancy and housing availability,” they said. “We are looking forward to welcoming new employees to their temporary homes.” 

The railroad also is working to provide employees housing support in other ways, such as by offering relocation assistance and covering hotel costs. 

“Relocation assistance and signing bonuses are available at many locations across our network,” CP officials added. 

Revelstoke leaders welcome CP’s investment in the apartments, which they believe will help boost employment levels and ease the housing crunch. 

“The ability to attract and maintain a quality workforce is imperative in a community like Revelstoke, where tourism is an important economic driver,” said Revelstoke Mayor Gary Sulz in a press release. “More importantly, Revelstoke is a more diverse and vibrant community when we have a variety of housing options available for our citizens.”