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2018 Elections – Candidates Perspectives on Affordable Housing

    Editorial & Opinions, Election Candidates    October 18, 2018

In the lead up to Election Day on October 20th, 2018, the Community Alliance will post answers from candidates to crucial questions. Today, we focus on impact of affordable housing.

Question: Using the many valuable planning tools in the Islands Trust report, Options for Affordable Housing-New Solutions to the Housing Crisis, how would you address challenges to ensuring the affordability of housing in the short, medium, and long term?

Sabrina Ali (candidate for Islands Trustee)

In the short term, I would:

a. Amend our Policy Statements and the OCP to ensure the importance of safe, affordable, and sustainable housing is strongly emphasized.
b. I would continue to monitor the secondary suites pilot area for sustainability and possibility of alignment with the matching program.

In the medium term, I would:

i. draft temporary use permit changes to allow consideration of alternative housing solutions which are ecologically harmonious and sustainable.
ii. I would be involved in developing a Trust wide Affordable Housing Strategy, including reviewing required map designations to meet anticipated housing needs and robust policies regarding affordable, safe, and sustainable housing, rural housing, and special needs housing
iii. Investigate the possibility of Density Bonuses.
iv. Encourage those initiatives already in place.

In the long term, I would:

1. like to see cluster style housing, with particular regard for ecologically sensitive areas. I like the vision of low density attached dwellings in micro villages.
2. look at Cottage housing, which determines density on the basis of square footage, without limiting the number of individual dwellings, which would allow tiny homes.How would you address and support the creation of a process to ensure that safe potable rainwater systems are installed on Salt Spring (e.g., Trust zoning and application regulations)?

Kylie Coates (candidate for Islands Trustee):

First for the short term I would stop kicking people out of all basement suites cabins trailers and tents
While there is a housing crisis

Second for the long-term we as an island must decide how we want affordable housing
Do we make basement suites and Separate cabins legal

I also think we have to build a larger apartment with 3 to 2 bedrooms apartments Close to Ganges and at least one in Fulford

Peter Grove (candidate for Islands Trustee):

The Report was written in 2003 and, remarkably, could have been written yesterday. The issues are the same. Some of the recommendations are in progress. Suites are now legal over more than half of the island. The challenge in some areas is that NSSWD will not provide water services because of the moratorium. The current LTC’s plans were to extend the plan to cover the entire island and I hope that the coming LTC follows up. Legalizing seasonal cottages, in areas not subject to water and/or environmental issues (some 500 properties) is up before the LTC at its coming meeting on October 18th.

There are some 260 units of affordable housing in process, all of which have been and will be before the LTC. They include creative plans for tiny homes, density housing, mixed zoning, all of which were recommended in the Report. The needs of families and seniors are certainly front and centre. I am confident that they will move ahead but there are hurdles which need to be resolved.

There have been no projects before the LTC involving zones for “cluster housing” in rural residential areas or “cottage housing”, measuring the density by floor space ratio rather than number of dwellings, as described in the Report. I am hopeful that applicants will consider these options.

The point is that, as much as it would like to, the LTC is not in a position to raise funds, purchase land, incur debt, and construct housing of any kind. It is up to the Province, the CRD and/or the community to take on such projects.The LTC manages and approves the land use through zoning, making changes with the community as may be appropriate and necessary.

In the short run our community is in serious need of housing for the homeless and individuals and families who live and work on the island and are without a home. We are told that the Province has significant funding available for such projects so it is up to the CRD and the community to make it happen. The LTC will enable and assist such projects to the best of its ability and within its mandate.

Gary Holman (candidate for CRD Director):

The key tools required to build more affordable housing on SSI include the ability to rezone land to increase density (i.e., increase the number of dwelling units per acre of land), the availability of funding from all levels of government to acquire land and build housing, the availability of key services (e.g., water, waste disposal, and transportation), and the ability to ensure affordability of housing in perpetuity, this breaking the link with market forces that drive up land and housing costs (e.g, through housing agreements on title). All of these tools are available to and have been applied by local government and affordable housing proponents on SSI.

I would argue that the availability of land is not the issue, at least in the short term. For example, the 7 affordable housing projects currently underway already have land secured. The Islands Trust Council and the CRD (which already owns 5 acres of land for up to 80 units of affordable housing on Drake Road) can also own land. Our current OCP also supports innovative land tenure arrangements, but it is the responsibility of proponents to bring forward proposals consistent with these policies. Funding at the regional, provincial and federal level is available at unprecedented levels, although there are still some gaps that must be addressed. Salt Spring has the capacity to provide waste disposal, and transportation services (e.g., walking/cycling pathways and public transit which I established as CRD Director). The major obstacle to building new affordable housing, at least in the NSSWD service area, is the moratorium on new water connections.

During my two terms as CRD Director (2002-2008), I opted Salt Spring into the CRD Housing Trust Fund in 2006, a regional fund that has contributed to the creation of hundreds of units of affordable housing within the Capital region, and scores of units on SSI. Since then, SSI has received grants that are many times its contributions (more grants than the three Saanich peninsula municipalities put together), including the Croftonbrook project proposal for over 50 units of affordable housing. As former President of the SSI Abbeyfield Society, I collaborated with IWAV in the establishment of the Cedars transition housing for women fleeing abuse.

There are many dimensions to the affordable housing problem. My top priority will be to support the 7 affordable housing projects already underway, all with land secured, including Croftonbrook (with $6.5 million in funding already committed), Dragonfly, Community Services’ SSI Commons and the CRD itself (all in the Drake Road area), Norton Road, Meadow Lane, and Brackett Springs. These projects, representing over 250 newly built units, directly address a range of affordable housing needs on SSI and would also free up rental housing in the private market. They will add to a permanent stock of affordable housing that is disconnected from inexorable market forces. All of these units would have housing agreements, covenants on title, that would assure affordability in perpetuity.

Two of these projects (Brackett Springs and SSI Commons) already have Islands Trust, water and (the remainder of this response was deleted, as it exceeded the 500 word count limit).

Howard Holzapfel (candidate for Islands Trustee):

A hospitality tax might be used for rental subsidies in the short-term. Longer term we need to designate areas suitable for higher densities and fund the building of affordable housing

Laura Patrick (candidate for Islands Trustee):

Housing has been recognized as an issue on the island for at least 15 years. In 2003, The Islands Trust received a staff report titled “Options for Affordable Housing: New Solutions to the Housing Crisis in the Islands Trust Area.” This 2003 staff report identified a number of planning tools to create affordable housing. Despite the recognized “crisis”, many of these planning tools have not been enacted.

We have a housing crisis that is impacting everyone on this island. Working people – among them nurses, teachers, servers, chefs – struggle for housing security. We risk losing organizations and businesses that are integral to our island life.

I will support the development of housing solutions that will help sustain a healthy community by:

in the short term,

· bringing the Trust, CRD and all other island organizations with housing mandates together to collaboratively develop an understanding of the housing issue, and develop a cohesive strategy for communications, actions and resources;
· directing staff to review the many reports (e.g., “Options for Affordable Housing: New Solutions to the Housing Crisis in the Islands Trust Area.”), surveys and studies that have already been completed that identify affordable housing innovation and best practices appropriate to our community, and to recommend steps for implementation;

in the short to medium term,

· making amendments to the Land Use Bylaw to remove unacceptable encumbrances to farmworker housing, secondary suites and cottages. We can implement other positive changes that have already been well-researched by the Islands Trust staff;
· holding community forums that build on what we already know to better understand housing needs, to find innovative solutions, and then getting to work to remove the barriers and implement solutions;
· strongly advocating to senior levels of government, especially the CRD and BC Housing, for a unique housing strategy with dedicated funding, and decision making for the Southern Gulf Islands;

in the long term,

· visioning an island resource dedicated to leading housing initiatives, monitoring, and reporting results.

Robin Williams (candidate for CRD Director):

I am already heavily involved in the affordable housing work on Salt Spring. I am the local government liaison for Dragon Fly Commons and have worked through the Transportation Commission to lobby MOTI for Drake Road to be upgraded. I also sit on the Housing Council and established with Ron Cooke and Peter Grove the Emergency Housing Task Force to deal with immediate short term relief. With seven projects underway the main obstacle has been water. I believe we need to get Island Health to work more cooperatively with the CRD on issues such as water and mental health. This is why I want to get a seat on the Island Health Board. With a seat at the table we will get our message more directly across.

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