Sunday, May 19, 2024
May 19, 2024

Housing task force members urge citizens to press Trust for change

BY HOUSING ACTION PROGRAM TASK FORCE MEMBERS

In April 2021, the Islands Trust appointed community members — including business owners, farmers, frontline workers, academics, tiny home and sustainable building experts — to an advisory task force to help address the housing crisis. During the first year of the Housing Action Program, the Trust conducted a housing survey among Salt Spring residents. This is what we heard:

• 83 per cent agreed secondary suites and accessory dwelling units (ADUs) should be permitted in garages and other accessory buildings

• 80 per cent agreed more small residential lots should be created, for example for tiny home villages

• 95 per cent are concerned about housing needs on the island

• 94 per cent agreed Salt Spring needs more affordable housing

(See islandstrust.bc.ca/document/salt-spring-housing-needs-survey-results-2022/ for the survey report.)

Starting with the first finding, we recommended increasing rental housing options through Bylaw 530 to allow accessory dwelling units in basements, garages and other places where housing already exists. This is one of the simplest zoning policies in the world to help create new housing and build inclusive communities where diverse people can live, work, raise a family, and age in place.

For two and a half years, the task force met twice monthly, volunteering our varying expertise, time, labour and resources to help enact policy changes that would allow for more suites and ADUs to be used for long-term housing. The task force included a diverse range of ages and voices. Some of us are homeowners, some are renters, and some have lived experience of homelessness. We are different in many ways. However, we agree on the need to improve the supply of long-term rental housing by allowing ADUs.

In 2023, the B.C. government introduced new legislation that legalizes small-scale accessory dwelling units in municipalities province-wide. The province is offering homeowners a forgivable loan of up to $40,000 to create an accessory dwelling unit. While similar communities across the province have proven that this results in a modest uptake of 10 per cent of additional housing, our local government has not moved forward on implementing policy changes that would allow for ADUs. In the meantime, we have heard from workers in schools, businesses, Lady Minto Hospital and BC Ferries about how they struggle to provide essential services for our community due to our housing crisis.

Salt Spring Island is becoming a gated community that only provides housing for those who want and can afford to purchase a detached $1-million-plus home.

We encourage you to attend Islands Trust meetings and to reach out to our local elected Trust members to remind them of the promises they made to our community when they were elected one year ago. Trustees Jamie Harris and Laura Patrick were elected to do something about housing and they were united in their support of Bylaw 530.

We are shocked and disheartened by the lack of trust, collaboration and goodwill between our trustees, the Islands Trust staff and different agencies across the island.

We call on everyone to stand up together and say enough is enough. We need to act now to improve housing options for our renters and our community. Breaking the gridlock will only come when regular people from the community demand it.

We have been fighting to make sure that housing is not just a privilege but a right for every single person who lives here.

The next Islands Trust meeting is on Thursday, Nov. 16, from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 122 Rainbow Rd. You can watch any part but the open floor to speak is only from 9:30 to 9:50 a.m. A town hall meeting also takes place on Nov. 15 at the Salt Spring Golf Club from 5 to 7 p.m. The elected trustees are Jamie Harris, jharris@islandstrust.bc.ca, and Laura Patrick, lpatrick@islandstrust.bc.ca.

Housing Action Program Task Force members signing this piece are Stanley Shapiro, Kerrie Proulx, Daniel Wood, Nejmah Guermoudi, Bryce Chapman, Yvonne Saunders, Jessica Terezakis and Rhonan Heitzmann.

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