Wednesday, July 24, 2024
July 24, 2024

In Response: Housing details are important

By GARY HOLMAN

SALT SPRING CRD DIRECTOR

Jason Mogus complains about a backgrounder drafted by CRD staff and I for the May 22 CRD Local Community Commission (LCC) housing workshop (“Housing project update – the real story”) in the June 26 Driftwood.

He says the 10 properties listed in the backgrounder with development potential of over 300 housing units was too rosy. But the backgrounder clearly states that “most properties, already designated or zoned for affordable housing,” still “require development funding, and additional water and wastewater services and approvals.”

Actually, some of these properties listed are being developed, namely the BC Housing 36-unit (originally 28-unit) Drake Road supported and worker housing project, and Seabreeze Inne renovations creating 17 health worker units. I share concerns about project delays, but they weren’t caused by local government, and when completed, these projects will hugely benefit our community.

With those two projects, plus Salt Spring Commons and Croftonbrook, a total of 131 units of affordable, worker and supported housing will have been built within five years. The majority of these new units also free up existing rental accommodation. And during this time, we finally secured year-round funding for our 30-unit homeless shelter. Developing affordable housing is challenging. More has to be done. But decision-makers and our community also need to understand when and how we succeed.

The Brackett Springs and Brinkworthy Road properties Mogus complains about were again simply identified in the backgrounder as being available for housing development. Does he know that Brinkworthy is in the provincially mandated ALR? Regardless, any future housing development there will benefit from the CRD requirement to extend the new fire hall sewer line to the Brinkworthy boundary. Mogus also seems unaware of Brackett Springs’ history: rezoned by the Trust over a decade ago, and awarded grant funding from CRD, BC Housing and CMHC. Most funding was later retracted because the project was floundering. It’s good the lender has finally listed this property for sale.

I share the disappointment about the Dragonfly project. As I wrote in the Driftwood recently, the proponents chose the more difficult strata ownership path, rather than affordable rental. Provincial regulations effectively required the creation of a water utility (to which the CRD agreed) and also precluded Dragonfly from government grants. Contrast this with the Croftonbrook affordable rental project: no utility required and receiving over $6 million in funding from CRD and BC Housing. Thankfully, Dragonfly’s owners state they’ll sell the property at cost to facilitate future housing development. Hopefully, new proponents will see the advantages of an affordable rental approach.

It’s true that an NGO has decided not to pursue the Norton Road property, already rezoned for 26 affordable units. Details are confidential, but essentially it was decided to pursue a BC Housing project grant separately from a more ambitious project on Norton. Hopefully, more news to come on the NGO project.

The LCC housing backgrounder also summarized a number of other housing initiatives, some of which didn’t exist until recently, including: the Housing Now landlord-tenant matching project; CRD Rural Housing Program (both with funding from Southern Gulf Islands Tourism Partnership); a renewed, $85-million CRD housing fund; and other provincial and federal funding and legislative measures. The backgrounder also noted that Islands Trust rezoned most of the properties on the backgrounder list, and legalized suites or cottages on hundreds of properties.

Deciding next steps to facilitate affordable housing on Salt Spring requires an understanding of existing development potential, and a rapidly evolving funding and legislative framework. Apparently, providing evidence of some progress on housing as part of that understanding is offensive to some.

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