We believe every Salt Springer should have a safe, long-term home they can afford and that minimizes impact on the environment. This vision responds to the many pressing issues we face today - the climate emergency, water shortages, large-scale land clearing - and looks to find a better way to preserve and protect our unique island environment and culture. Solutions that do this include:
Green non-profit affordable housing projects
Planning for 5 affordable housing projects is already underway: IWAV’s Croftonbrook, Dragonfly Commons, Community Services’ Salt Spring Commons, the Drake Road CRD project, and MeadowLane Senior’s Housing. The Norton Road project has been withdrawn due to a decade of local approval delays.
These projects could create over 200 affordable housing units, addressing a wide range of needs. Protected by housing agreements, they will add to a permanent stock of affordable housing protected from market pressure to escalate in value. They are likely to also free up private rental housing for other renters.
Only SS Commons has resolved their servicing issues. The other 5 projects are all affected by the North Salt Spring Waterworks District’s moratorium on new water connections, forcing them to develop alternative water supplies in order to move forward.
Water challenges have spurred an impressive array of environmentally responsible measures. Croftonbrook, designed to provide 54 additional rental units (for individuals, couples, seniors, those currently experiencing homelessness, and small families who have low to moderate incomes) is leading the way by obtaining Island Health and CRD permission to use rain catchment for irrigation and grey water for toilet flushing.
MeadowLane, the proposed facility for 36 senior residences, plans to be a leader in environmental innovations through rainwater collection from its 35,000 square foot roof, on-site water storage vaults, a potable water treatment plant on site, and its own on-site sewage treatment plant.
Salt Spring has a long history of “alternative living”, in community and close to the land. Today some farms using strict permaculture principles see multiple families living together using less water and resources than nearby conventional homes housing only a few people. Countless other more traditional properties operate currently illegal small suites.
Owners and residents of these small scale solutions live in fear of being shut down due to regressive local bylaws, yet the same zoning is allowing hundreds of new mansions to be built with virtually no restrictions on water, energy, or land-use.
Eco-village zoning would use total floor area on a piece of land as a density measure, allowing multiple smaller footprint homes to be legal as long as the total was below a maximum square metre limit. This special zoning could be granted in exchange for placing a large portion of the property under conservation covenant, an affordable housing agreement, an ecological building/permaculture land management plan, sustainable water supply, and/or safe waste management practices.
This would create a legal pathway for clusters of small, low-impact homes that align fit with the culture of our island.
Conservation density to protect habitat and create more housing
Salt Spring can create a system where bonus densities can be granted to a property owner in exchange for conservation of ecologically sensitive areas, such as mature forests, wetlands, or other biologically critical habitats.
Offering a financial incentive for conservation, such a system would allow more homes to be created in identified areas than can be obtained through traditional subdivision. In addition to conserving ecologically sensitive land, these new bonus densities would be kept affordable by housing agreements.
Allow legal accessory buildings
A shocking amount of our current rental housing stock is technically illegal for year round rentals. More housing would become immediately available - with less pressures on our environment in the dry, over-crowded summer - if home and landowners were allowed to rent spaces in existing buildings, such as suites above garages, shops, and commercial spaces for full-time occupancy.
This would require revisions in Islands Trust Land Use Bylaws, to our official community plan, and to CRD and Island Health regulations.
Water moratorium revision for affordable housing and singular island-wide water district
The moratorium on new water hook-ups by North Salt Spring Waterworks District was a smart climate change adaptation strategy. It has however created significant, painful impacts on the availability of affordable and rental housing. And because it places no such legal restrictions on new homes or existing customers to conserve water or implement alternative sources for irrigation or gray water, it is grossly unfair.
Despite strong community pressures to create exceptions for affordable housing, the NSSWD has been unresponsive to calls for change.
A revision of the moratorium and revision of the Island Trust’s Land Use Bylaws, as well as CRD and Island Health regulations, to allow alternative water sources for all secondary and multi-family dwellings would help us all use less water while placing the burden to conserve more fairly across the whole community.
An island wide water district to own, plan and manage all water resources on Salt Spring would provide substantial flexibility and scale that the current highly fractured system lacks. Activities of a new water district could include creation of a fact-based, island-wide water plan that prioritizes water resources for sustainable, affordable housing (including traditional and alternative sources) and watershed protection.
Other solutions we have identified include:
Create a landlord-tenant matching process to encourage property owners to rent their available spaces.
The Islands Trust can create local "Rainwater Harvesting and Use Guidelines". For potable and non-potable uses of rainwater across all land use zones, and in approved dwellings (and any water deemed as "greywater").
The Islands Trust can allow all cottages to be rented year-round, and end illegal, non-resident investor-owned Short Term Vacation Rentals. Provide clear and inclusive rules for legal B&B businesses and vacation rentals.
Dedicate a senior Islands Trust planner with more discretionary power to prioritize affordable housing applications and bylaws. Can a CRD staff person be dedicated to affordable housing?
Support an Interagency Working Group (including all governmental agencies and Improvement Districts) tasked with working together to advocate for affordable/available housing projects. Perhaps identify funding for a paid coordinator.
There are many other solutions possible when we put our minds and hearts together as a community. Contact us or sign our petition if you want to talk more about or work on these solutions.