Wednesday, June 12, 2024
June 12, 2024

Salt Spring CRD taxes up 7%

By GARY HOLMAN

SSI ELECTORAL AREA DIRECTOR

The final CRD budget for 2024, a difficult year, particularly at the local level due to several factors, will be approved by the CRD Board later in March.

The total CRD requisition for Salt Spring Island (SSI) for 2024, including Capital Regional Hospital District, other CRD regional and sub-regional services, as well as the delegated services of the Local Community Commission (LCC), is about $8.2 million, an increase of seven per cent over 2023. As reported earlier by LCC chair Earl Rook and myself, LCC services account for about 5.3 per cent of this increase, and regional and sub-regional services about 1.7 per cent.

A significant cost driver regionally and locally is inflation, and related, negotiated staff wages and salaries. Assessed values on SSI in 2024 (about $1.05 million for the “average” residential property versus $1.1 million in 2023), declined by about four per cent versus slight increases for the Southern Gulf Islands and Juan de Fuca electoral areas and CRD as a whole. This means that Salt Spring’s share of the regional and sub-regional service costs decreased, partially mitigating their tax impacts on SSI.

Affordable Housing

The “counter-petition” regarding the proposed CRD borrowing for affordable housing has failed, meaning that $85 million can proceed as projects emerge. As with the previous borrowing for CRD’s Regional Housing First program (which helped fund more than 1,500 affordable housing units in the region, including the 54-unit Croftonbrook project on SSI), CRD will seek matching funding from senior governments for land acquisition and project construction.

At its Feb. 14 meeting, the CRD Board also approved a Rural Housing Strategy (RHS) which, after stakeholder consultation, will be implemented in the SSI and Southern Gulf Islands (SGI) electoral areas in early 2025. This strategy proposes the hiring of a rural housing coordinator, as well as possible incentives for affordable suites and cottages, and pre-development funding for the due diligence required to develop affordable housing.

As reported earlier, the Southern Gulf Islands Tourism Partnership (SGITP) has agreed to an annual contribution of $100,000 per year to the CRD RHS with revenues from the two per cent Municipal and Regional District Tax levied on tourism accommodation in the SSI and SGI electoral areas. The SGITP is also funding the Housing Now landlord-tenant matching program, and will be considering other initiatives in the two electoral areas with a focus on employee housing.

I have recently met with BC Housing staff, who confirmed their commitment to the long-awaited supported housing project on the CRD Drake Road property and to another public meeting this spring.

At my request, the CRD Board advocated to the Province for the inclusion of electoral areas in their suite incentive program (providing forgivable loans of up to $40,000 for new accessory dwelling units), to which the B.C. government has recently agreed. Also at my request, the CRD Board had previously asked for inclusion of SSI in the provincial Speculation and Vacancy Tax. It is also my hope that the Islands Trust pursue inclusion in provincial legislation requiring owner-occupation of short-term vacation rentals.

Harbour Management

I will be participating in a CRD workshop regarding possible harbour management options in marine waters bordering Sidney, North Saanich and Central Saanich. These municipalities have formed a sub-regional CRD service to examine management alternatives. None have as yet been pursued due to the lack of support from provincial and federal governments, which have primary jurisdiction over the marine seabed and waters. On SSI, the many liveaboards in Ganges Harbour are also understandably fearful that any management regime might render them homeless. Representatives of senior governments and First Nations, along with other local stakeholders will also be invited to the CRD workshop.

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