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Great to See All Candidates Prioritize Housing – Now to the Hard Work

    Editorial & Opinions, Real Estate    October 15, 2018

Over the course of the past 6 months, volunteers from across the Island have been exploring solutions to our affordable housing crisis. Members of our group have held hundreds of meetings and conversations with community leaders, current elected officials, planners, non-profit housing proponents, engineers and water experts, builders and rental suite owners, and those most impacted by the current crisis including seniors, teachers and healthcare workers, young families, farmers and business owners.

Through these discussions we have identified four high priority housing solutions that, if implemented, we believe would go a long way towards easing the crisis. There are of course many other ideas that will help however we believe these four will have the most significant impact and are the most viable given Salt Spring’s unique governance.

At the root of any long term solution is the need to increase the supply of long-term rental housing and affordable homeownership for Salt Spring residents while maintaining our world-class protections for our remarkable ecosystems.

Earlier this month we sent a questionnaire to all 6 LTC and 2 CRD Director candidates asking if they shared our priorities, and specifically what they would do, if elected, to implement these solutions. Our goals were twofold – first to identify which of the candidates really “get it” and are thinking hard and deep about practical solutions, and the second was to generate more awareness about the specific solutions we’ve surfaced.

Here are our four proposed solutions:

  1. Our first priority is to increase housing density in a few specific locations in ways that are compatible with the existing community character and ecological sensibilities of our community.
  2. Our second priority is to make it easier and cheaper to use rainwater and groundwater as the principal source of potable water for multi-family housing and rainwater for secondary dwellings.
  3. Our third priority is to remove cost and procedural barriers to non-profit affordable housing projects. Several non-profit projects are proposed or being actively planned in our community, but all of these continue to face barriers to actually being constructed.
  4. Our fourth priority is to restrict the number of short term vacation rentals (STVRs) and create safeguards to protect long-term, affordable housing for residents.

Finally we asked candidates to suggest their own ideas for affordable housing solutions that they want to popularize or implement if elected.

We are happy to report that all candidates responded, and that housing is shared as a high priority issue of each one. There were some significant differences however in how certain candidates propose we get there.

We hope that everyone who is impacted by the crisis – and that means everyone but most especially those directly affected – gets out and votes this Saturday Oct 20. Whoever gets elected we are confident there is newfound momentum and energy towards finding solutions and we look forward to working with the new Trustees and CRD Director on change that protects our environment while making Salt Spring a place that works for everyone.

Rhonan Heintzmann and Calico Chang

We have identified four high priority housing solutions that, if implemented, we believe will go a long way towards easing the housing crisis.

Question 1: Our first priority solution is to increase housing density in specific zones and locations in ways that are compatible with the existing character and ecological sensibilities of our community. If elected, what specifically will you do in your role to support targeted density increases such as?

Sabrina Ali: I would continue the secondary suites pilot project; I would investigate a matching service for landlords and tenants; I would like to see cluster housing, with particular regard for ecologically sensitive areas; explore Cottage housing (which limits density to square footage, rather than the number of individual dwellings, and Density bonuses; and be involved in developing a Trust wide housing strategy that contains robust policies re: affordable, safe, and sustainable housing, rural housing and special needs housing.

Kylie Coates: I believe Saltsprings density rules are a little outdated I’m also a fan creating an Eco- housing zone

Laura Patrick: Ask for immediate amendments to the Land Use Bylaw to remove unacceptable encumbrances to farm-worker housing, secondary suites and cottages. We can implement other positive changes that have already been well-researched by the Islands Trust staff. Direct staff to review the many reports, surveys and studies that have already been done that identify affordable housing innovation and best practices appropriate to our community and to recommend steps for implementation. Hold community forums to better understand housing needs, discuss these and other innovative solutions, and then get to work to remove the barriers and implement solutions. Strongly advocate to senior levels of government, especially the Capital Regional District (CRD) and BC Housing, for a unique housing strategy with dedicated funding for the Island Trust Area.

Peter Grove: I will pursue a full review of the OCP by the community which would address such issues

Howard Holzapfel: Review planning look at areas within the Ganges area to increase density

Daryl Martin: Immediately I would introduce a motion to encourage temporary relocatable housing such as tiny homes. These would initially be approved as temporary only, while a more permanent solution is developed. Soon after I would engage the island in a broad-based consultation to find a solution that balances the need for land preservation with the need for some areas of higher density. I expect the solution will be new rules that recognize that some types of dwellings and occupants have a much smaller footprint than others.

Gary Holman: My ranking of importance would be higher if take-up by owners of suites and cottages for long term rentals (rather than tourist accommodation) could be increased, and if affordability, health and safety, and proximity to non-auto transport could be assured. CRD bylaw enforcement policy and technical support, monitoring of housing agreements, expansion of transit and pathways, and perhaps even funding, could help on these issues, and I’m committed to pursuing all of these measures.

Robin Williams: This is a Trust issue but I believe we need a higher density zone on upper Drake Road. We need housing that is affordable. More projects like Dragonfly Commons, driven in part by the private sector using “Political Entrepreneurship”. Happy to serve on their Steering Committee.

Question 2: Our second priority solution is to make it easier and cheaper to use rainwater and groundwater as the principal source of potable water for multi-family housing and rainwater for secondary dwellings.  If elected, what will you do in your role to remove potable water as a barrier to creating new, affordable homes?

Sabrina Ali: I enthusiastically support the development of a Comprehensive Water Strategy, specifically to address rainwater catchment, Grey water, and irrigation. I would want broad community consultation, likely through monthly Town Hall meetings to determine the best way to achieve ecological governance and mindful community development; I would use land use designations to protect watersheds. I would encourage the development and refinement of ‘measurables’ against which we can measure our progress. This would include monitoring and managing species at risk, invasive species, and ecological restoration. I would promote community participation in water conservation through information sharing and the encouragement of voluntary stewardship.

Kylie Coates: Asking the CRD to change their building code that all new constructions have to have a 500 gallon water storage tank Also going to the Ministry of environment and asking for subsidies for tanks and gray water recovery systems

Laura Patrick: I will improve coordination and collaboration with the other governments and agencies that are creating barriers to easier and cheaper use of rainwater and groundwater such as CRD, Island Health, and BC Housing. I can improve Islands Trust influence on other governments and agencies, by reaching out and working with other Island Trust Area communities and their Trustees where they are facing similar challenges. I support managing and conserving our water supplies and employing standards to ensure long-term ecological sustainability of our watersheds while encouraging ecologically-sound housing solutions.

Peter Grove: You cant “remove it as a barrier”. There must always be evidence of potable water. But potable water should include rainwater so building codes need to be updated and Islands Health rules need to be changed.

Howard Holzapfel: Look at using reclaimed water for park an the golf course require homes at time of sale to be refitted with low flow fixtures, create a water bank to release meters for AH

Daryl Martin: I will continue the work I initiated in August: through a working group including CRD officials, SSIWPA and local water stakeholders, clarify and streamline the approval process for water catchment and storage Working with a private agency and CRD, develop a micro-loan program to encourage water storage Encourage SSIWPA to engage with others, including our Fire District, to educate and encourage property owners to install catchment and storage. Invite NSSWD to participate in regular strategy meetings with Trust and CRD to find solutions.

Gary Holman: Water is primarily a barrier in the NSSWD service area. Shortly after NSSWD’s water moratorium was announced, I convened two round table meetings of agencies and proponents to discuss alternatives such as conservation, groundwater and rainwater catchment. The 5 affordable housing projects currently in the Ganges area that are affected by the moratorium are all pursuing potable water alternatives. I would advocate with CRD Building Inspection, and provincial agencies such as Island Health and FLNRO to review regulations in order to facilitate use of these alternatives. Integration of groundwater sources for two projects on Drake Rd into a new CRD water utility should be examined. Where a broad public benefit can be identified, gas tax funding could be considered to assist with alternative water supplies. Water reclamation at the Ganges wastewater treatment plant should be pursued, at least for non-potable uses like irrigation of playing fields and landscaping (e.g., as proposed by SD 64 and in possible partnership with NSSWD). An aggressive conservation strategy to reduce water consumption and distribution leaks should be pursued. Water supply-demand analysis should be done in all water districts and all community well zones to avoid future water shortages and moratoriums. Large uses of groundwater outside of groundwater dependent water districts (e.g., in the case of Cedar Lane)should be tested to ensure that aquifers are not being drawn down. I will advocate with Islands Trust to designate a planner specializing in affordable housing and related support services such as water. Greater consolidation of water districts under the CRD should and is being examined to determine if there are cost and coordination benefits.

Robin Williams: I will lobby for a seat for the Southern Gulf Islands and SSI on Island Health (VIHA) Board. They have significant impact on water and water quality issues. I will also lead the negotiations with North Salt Spring Water works to create a new SSI Public Works and Water Utility.

Question 3: Our third priority solution is to remove cost and procedural barriers to non-profit affordable housing projects. Several non-profit projects are proposed or being actively planned in our community, but all of these face significant barriers to actually being constructed. If elected, what will you do specifically to move these projects forward and encourage new projects?

Sabrina Ali: I would encourage the six ‘silos’ of governance with exclusive jurisdiction in their respective fields to attend community-wide, monthly Town Hall meetings, where discussion takes place with everyone in the same room. I would like to review the relevant bylaws to ensure they support the good work that has already been done. I would encourage new projects by looking particularly at bylaws regarding secondary suites, Cottage housing, and Density bonuses working of course, with SWIPPA, and all the other stakeholders.

Kylie Coates: I will bring all the governing body of salt Spring together Second I will bring all these projects proposals So the governing body and the people look at them Third to make the move forward We should pick the best proposal and the governing body and the other groups get behind it trying to get one built first And one project one is built then move to project to three and so on Having them all work together To get affordable housing built

Laura Patrick: I will request that non-profit organizations and caring citizens that develop projects that bring relief to our housing emergency be exempt from application fees and be expedited through the review process. To create consistency and efficiency in the review process, I will request Islands Trust provide training and dedicate planning staff with expertise in multi-family housing projects. I will advocate to senior levels of government, especially the Capital Regional District (CRD) and BC Housing, for a unique housing strategy with dedicated funding for the Island Trust Area. I will improve coordination and collaboration with the other governments and agencies that have an influence on local planning and services such as CRD, Island Health, Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, and BC Housing.

Peter Grove: Deal with the specific barriers as they present themselves and revise the OCP to address them, as appropriate

Howard Holzapfel: Work with all agencies to remove the roadblocks on this critical need in our community

Daryl Martin: Dedicate sufficient staff time to affordable housing through continuing to retain the recently-added contract position, and adding another short-term if necessary. Use the “conditional approval” tool on such projects where applicable e.g. Drake Road project.

Gary Holman: There are 7 projects underway in the Ganges area, all with land secured, representing over 250 units of affordable housing addressing a whole range of needs on SSI. All of these units will ensure affordability over time by means of housing agreements, an essential tool to establish a stock of housing separated from market forces, and will free up rentals in the existing housing stock. This is a remarkable opportunity that will be my top priority as CRD Director to support by advocating for senior government funding (Croftonbrook has already secured $6.5 million and as former MLA I have excellent relationships with the new provincial government) and helping provide or secure funding for supporting services (e.g., water, waste disposal, transit, pathways). See answers to Q#4 re potable water. The Transportation Commission (which established as former CRD Director) can assist with transit and pathway supporting infrastructure. Greater CRD support and involvement in the SSI Housing Council (e.g, to help share information among proponents, monitor housing agreements, and eventually develop affordable housing) will benefit current and potential new projects. I will support the establishment of a “hotel tax” on SSI which can also help fund workforce housing and a modest region-wide increase in the CRD Housing Trust Fund (which I established on SSI and which funded Murakami Gardens and other projects) which currently costs each household only 50 cents per month and could provide millions more for affordable housing throughout the CRD.

Robin Williams: I am already involved in this. I serve on Dragonfly/Norton Road Steering Committee, the Housing Council and co founded the Emergency Housing Task Force. i will appoint a “Housing Champion” to work on the issue. I also favor a “Housing Authority” like the model used at Whistler.

Question 4: Our fourth priority solution is to restrict the number of short term vacation rentals (STVRs) and create safeguards to protect long-term, affordable housing for residents. If elected, what would you do specifically to restrict investor-owned STVR’s?

Sabrina Ali: This is the best case for density analysis performed region by region. Based on that analysis, I would revise bylaws that would result in affordable, safe, and sustainable housing, while limiting a little as possible ecological impact and the impact on property owner decision making freedom. Sadly if you buy a house and you want to rent it out short term it is your house and you should be allowed to Even though I don’t like this As someone who asked to rent on salt Spring

Laura Patrick: I will immediately develop a public education/communication campaign that serves as a warning to those operating illegal STVRs and seek voluntary compliance with our bylaws. I will review what efforts staff and bylaw officers have taken to date and evaluate results. I will cooperate and collaborate with the CRD and other governments and agencies to identify and implement other legal mechanisms such as higher business rates on property taxes and limited business licenses.

Peter Grove: Continue the present policy of by-law enforcement

Howard Holzapfel: Some rentals are family homes that are not used often. They most probably would never be 1 affordable or 2 be on the market for along term rental. Solution charge a licensing fee, an application fee, and a bed tax. All proceeds would go to build affordable housing and offer rental assistance

Daryl Martin: Recognize more clearly the difference between vacation rental accommodation on land owned and occupied by a resident, and accommodation owned by non-residents. Until the current crisis subsides, encourage the latter to be used for long term rental only.

Gary Holman: I will continue my support for the existing ban in our Official Community Plan on STVRs, which reduce our long term housing stock, create speculative demand and pressure on housing costs, and hollow out our community. SSI has been exempted from the proposed provincial “speculation tax”. If our local Trustees agree, I will advocate for reconsideration of this exemption (or establishment of an alternative) and allocation of revenue for affordable housing on SSI.

Robin Williams: I believe we should establish a STVR business license. Anyone not in compliance would face a severe daily fine of $1000. This has be done elsewhere with success. But this is not really the problem. You cannot force private property owners to pick up where the local and Provincial Governments have failed.

Question 5: Are there other priority affordable housing solutions on your mind, or in your platform, that you would like islanders to know about?

Sabrina Ali: The drafting of temporary use permits to allow consideration of alternative housing solutions which are ecologically harmonious, safe, and sustainable is another possibility.

Kylie Coates: Yes as someone who rents on salt Spring and cannot afford a house this is on my mind my platform I am the youngest candidate running in the upcoming election 36 I was born on salt Spring it’s where I want to live

Laura Patrick: We have a housing emergency. We need a cohesive approach as pointed out by Rob Grant in the September 26 Driftwood. Many islanders are seeking and developing ideas to improve governance on our island. I suggest we trail the Alliance’s idea of an Inter-Agency Working Group on addressing just one issue – the housing emergency.

Peter Grove: Affordable housing construction can only take place with investment by the province, the CRD and/or the community. The Islands Trust deals with zoning. As a Trustee I encourage and facilitate appropriate projects, to the best of my ability.

Howard Holzapfel: 1 generate income to support affordable housing 2 increase density to allow for affordable housing 3 grants to offset rent 4 a community board who is in charge of the grant program

Daryl Martin: Work closely with our MLA to have the Province allow SSI to implement unique solutions on a “pilot project” basis, solutions such as resolving landlord-tenant issues by an island body not bound by the current provincial legislation. Pay serious attention to “Options for Affordable Housing:New Solutions to the Housing Crisis in the Islands Trust Area”, a report written for the Islands Trust in 2003. Study the experiences of similar regions which have tried innovative approaches to housing, places like Jasper National Park, and Guernsey Island. One of these remedies to study would be tying units specifically to workforce housing. Have the Trust regularly collect data on housing issues, and make a serious effort to inform islanders of the long term negative effects of inadequate housing for essential service providers, negative effects on health care, education, seniors care etc.

Gary Holman: As a community activist and former CRD Director for SSI, I have more experience in affordable housing policy development, securing funding and development than any other candidate. As CRD Director, I opted SSI into the CRD Housing Trust Fund, that (including Croftonbrook) has helped support the development of about 90 units of affordable housing here. As CRD Director, I provided a number of grants in aid to local community housing groups to support projects, including Copper Kettle’s work with the homeless. As former President of the SSI Abbey-field Association, I worked in partnership with Island Women Against Violence to establish the Cedars transition housing for women fleeing abuse. More recently as a volunteer, I have been participating in a group seeking housing solutions for the homeless and have been assisting Community Services in lobbying the Province to fund its proposed year round shelter. SSI housing proponents are having to deal with our first water moratorium in the NSSWD service area. This introduces frustrating complications in project development, but water supply alternatives are available and can be implemented if we approach the issue in a collaborative and determined fashion. The creation of a permanent stock of affordable housing, with housing agreements to buffer these units from market forces in perpetuity. Please look for my upcoming article on affordable housing in the SS Exchange.

Robin Williams: I think we will be in much better shape in about two years. It is the short term where we really have a problem. This is what the Emergency Housing Task Force is looking at. Hoping the Community Services proposal receives the required funding.

Note: the answers above were cut and pasted directly from responses submitted by candidates to our online survey. We did not edit any responses for grammar, punctuation, clarity, or brevity.

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