Farmers and business owners are the backbone of our community. Our island has so much rural history, and also an exciting future with service and new digital businesses. But it is incredibly hard for farmers and business owners to find housing for their workers.
"We need farm workers to live on the land but in our current bylaws this is not legally possible."
We moved here 6 years ago to find a property and live in community, and a year later we were able to buy a property with a partner and start creating a community farm.
We have had a number of people living here: land partners, family, work traders and tenants.
Recently we had a neighbour make a noise complaint, resulting in the bylaw officer coming and saying that we have too many unlawful dwellings on our land.
This has caused me to learn all about the bylaws and the Trust.
I turn people away from my farm almost daily - Freyja Skye
I have since talked to a lot of farmers who say that we need farmworker housing and/or people to live on the land to help with the work and the payments, but in our current bylaws this is not legally possible. Aging farmers need to be able to find successors to take over the farm, and all farmers need help as well as additional income – because who can pay a mortgage on a minimum $1 million property by selling kale and carrots?
The OCP mentions communal land stewardship and living communally as well as the need for additional housing on farmland, but our bylaws do not support that.
Almost all of the beautiful farms on the island are basically illegal!
I have been championing the farm community in this struggle. I am currently working with the Agricultural Alliance and other allies on a proposal to review the bylaw in a way that more accurately reflects the needs of our farming community, which is supported by the OCP as well as the ALC (Agricultural Land Commission) in many ways. We expect the AG Alliance to endorse it and then we will present it to the Trustees. The more organizations that we can get behind that the more likely it will get passed.
There are already ALC non-farm use applications for farm worker housing, but all of those need to go through the Islands Trust and it is a 6-8 month process that costs money. We are making some recommendations on how to stream-line that process.
There are also some things that are allowed by the ALC – a secondary suite in the home as well as a mobile home or a secondary suite above a farm building. They also allow 10 agro-tourism sleeping units that could be a room in your house, a RV site, a tent site or a cabin without a kitchen. Agri-tourism can help bring in the essential additional income farmers need to make ends meet, while offering visitors to our Island the unique opportunity to experience our organic, small scale farming community during their stay.
A lot of people move to the island because they want to steward land in a sustainable way, and because they want to do so in community. We need leadership and new creative solutions to make this possible!
I turn people away from my farm almost daily who need housing or are looking for a work trade/ farm stay opportunity and community living!
- Freyja Skye
Be sure to read more of Freya's story in the Driftwood multimedia feature on the housing crisis.
"I almost lost my employee twice because of housing. That's ludicrous."
I run a small consulting business here, we work for charitable and social causes around the world. It's a great privilege to be able to do this work from such a stunning, special place. I never thought one of my biggest challenges would be keeping staff due to the housing crisis!
We have a part time administrative employee who helps us with accounting, marketing, technology, and other important work. It's a good job for the island, we pay double the livable wage, though it is only part time. Our employee is hard working and reliable, and after investing a year in training him I certainly want to keep him around long-term.
Yet we've almost lost him not once but twice due to the housing crisis! He even had to work remotely for 3 months this year. This is a ludicrous thing for a small business to deal with, but my problems are tiny compared to what all this uncertainty is like for him.
This is a guy with two legitimate jobs - he pays taxes on both - and he's almost lost his job twice due to not being able to find a place to live. That's unacceptable, and we have to do better.
- Jason Mogus (Jason is part of this new "SHAC" group and helped build this website)