There's been some significant progress around affordable housing since local elections last month.
Housing champions win local elections
In case you missed it, Laura Patrick won the most votes in last month's Islands Trust election. We saw Laura at many housing council meetings, and she made housing one of the top three priorities in her platform. We think she brings to the role a lot of fresh energy and ideas, as well as a really great demeanor in listening and working collaboratively to solve problems in practical ways.
Gary Holman also won election as our CRD Representative. Those who know Gary know he "gets it", the complex social justice and affordability issues at play here. In our deepening understanding of our very complicated governance landscape, the CRD often takes a quiet but leading role, so it's great to have a champion at that level we can all work with.
Peter Grove was also re-elected to a third term, and he is also supportive of housing solutions. We were heartened by this amazing statement he made at the all-candidates meeting a few days before the election: "We could do more or less whatever we want on this island. Clearly what we're doing now is not enough; we need to open our minds to different ways of living, different kinds of housing, different ways of using the land."
The fact that the community overwhelmingly supported Laura Patrick's housing driven campaign, that housing issues dominated the election conversation, and that all three elected rep's care about finding solutions is a good sign that we're going to see some real changes.
Salt Spring Commons is finally going to happen!
The other good news is that two non-profit housing projects that in some ways spurred the creation of our little campaign are both getting closer to getting built.
Salt Spring Community Services recently received a $2.4 million grant from the provincial government towards the construction of Salt Spring Commons. The grant closed a big funding gap that had delayed the project for an additional year.
Salt Spring Commons will provide two- and three-bedroom below-market townhomes for local families. The funding comes along with an annual operating subsidy that will allow Community Services to rent homes to households with very low to moderate incomes. The neighbourhood in Bishops Walk is on a 5-acre parcel on Mount Belcher and within walking distance of Ganges. It will include 8 triplex buildings, a Common House, community gardens, play areas for children and 3 acres of shared forest.
With this new money now in place, Community Services hopes to finalize permits with the Islands Trust and CRD in time to break ground this coming spring. After many years of hard work, that's some good news!
Croftonbrook got its permit! Only one more hurdle to go
The 54 unit Croftonbrook housing project led by IWAV was also given a development permit from the Islands Trust just before the election. Huge congratulations to the planning staff and outgoing council (including Peter Grove) that made this happen.
This allows these new units designed for individuals, couples, and small families with low to moderate income to advance before a critical funding window closed. The process took 16 months and faced considerable local hurdles. BC Housing had committed $6.1 million in funding but our community risked losing it all if the two-year timeline could not be met.
IWAV is hoping for shovels in the ground before the end of the year! The rezoning bylaw must still be approved by the Islands Trust Executive Committee (which Laura Patrick is now on), and Island Health must approve a permit for the water system. If there are any further problems we'll be sure to let you know so we can help boot this over the finish line.
Let's talk about housing more people with less impact on the environment
Together we've helped shift the story on affordable housing, elected housing champions to office, and helped some of these bigger non-profit projects get un-stuck.
Please take that in for a minute. Progress! Congratulations, Salt Spring!
But there is so much more to be done. To go further we need take a look at the conditions that created this problem and are holding back more practical solutions.
Just before the election our team sat down and reviewed a whole bunch of materials, prior Islands Trust housing plans (never implemented), and conversations we've had with planners, engineers, water experts, citizens, builders, and many more. We came up with a series of high level and very practical solutions that, if implemented, would go a long way towards solving the housing crisis.
Over the winter we're going to share this list as a discussion paper, and hopefully engage more of the island in a conversation about solutions. Can we find solutions that house more people here, with less impact on the environment?
Interested in taking part? We'll let you know the next steps.
Thanks again for signing the petition. Your involvement helped make all of this happen.