A growing movement to encourage local government bodies to work harder on bold and systemic solutions to the housing crisis held a positive rally this morning at the Islands Trust offices.
People from all walks of life - including parents and children, farmers, working people, business owners, health care and education workers, and retirees - who are impacted by the crisis attended to show that housing solutions need to be a top priority of our community’s leadership.
Standing behind a large banner that said “Housing Action = Climate Action”, speakers highlighted that the way development is done on the island now is not sustainable. “With hundreds of large, high resource use new homes being built with virtually no requirements that they conserve energy, water, or forests, this is not meeting the Trust’s mandate to preserve and protect our environment or unique island culture. The intense pressures limiting the housing stock and raising the cost of rental and affordable housing gets worse every month, and many long-time islanders are being forced to leave.” said event co-organizer Rhonan Heintzmann.
“What’s our community going to look like in 10 years as these trends, and the climate emergency, continue to get worse?” said Heintzmann.
Rally signs highlighted solutions the Trust is being asked to implement that would help both affordable housing and the climate: rainwater harvesting, eco-village zoning, legalizing cottages and suites, protecting forests and more homes in town.
Rally co-organizer and local planner and housing advocate Elizabeth FitzZaland highlighted how housing solutions can also help the climate. “Allowing smaller and existing dwellings to be used for housing has much less environmental impact than large new homes. We can create guidelines that save water and energy across our entire housing stock. Clusters of smaller, low-impact homes could be allowed in exchange for a commitment to conservation and permaculture practices. We can preserve our forests by transferring the density of lots with important biodiversity features to the Ganges village core. More homes in town means fewer GHG’s for transportation. And with more homes available we can stop off-island commuting from hundreds of working people, which is increasing rapidly every year the housing crisis continues.”
“Housing people with less impact on the environment is one of the biggest challenges of the 21st century, but we have all we need to figure this out here.” said Jason Mogus, a volunteer who works as a consultant and campaigner on climate and biodiversity campaigns around the world.
Speakers also expressed frustration with the Islands Trust’s lack of leadership. “The Trust has studied the issue for decades - some of our solutions came from a “plan” they approved in 2003. It’s been a year since housing was the top election issue. I’ve had dozens of meetings with Trust staff and elected representatives, but they continue to punt bolder ideas into the future.” said Heintzmann.
At one point, rally-goers chanted “Salt Spring Can, Show Your Plan” as a challenge to the Trust to respond to the crisis in a tangible way, and soon.
Members of organizing groups will also attend the Islands Trust meeting in Victoria on December 4 to present photos and stories from the rally, the solutions proposed, and a petition signed by over 800 people demanding action. There are also plans for presenting similar custom solutions to the CRD and North Salt Spring Water Works.