Immediate actions for addressing the housing crisis (letter to LTC)

On October 1, 2019, Salt Spring Solutions (which is really everyone who has signed the housing petition, shown up at a town hall, etc) is presenting the following letter to the Local Trust Committee of the Islands Trust.

The letter has been endorsed by other community groups including the Housing Council, Transition Salt Spring,

The full letter is available here as a well formatted PDF, or below.

Dear Trustees,

Re: Immediate Actions for Addressing the Housing Crisis

We, Salt Spring Solutions, respectfully submit this letter to the Salt Spring Local Trust Committee (LTC) and request an prompt response. Salt Spring Solutions is a grassroots network of residents, employers, workforce members and affordable housing advocates concerned about our community’s Housing Crisis and its relationship to the Climate Emergency declared by the Islands Trust earlier this year. This letter seeks to reiterate the urgency for action and provides a list of actions the LTC can take immediately to address the Housing Crisis and Climate Emergency.

Salt Spring Solution’s vision is that every Salt Spring resident has a safe, long-term home they can afford and that is designed to minimize human impacts on the natural environment. Our vision responds to the many pressing issues we face today – the Climate Emergency, water shortages, large-scale land clearing, a declining workforce, limited medical services, reduced school enrolment, increased traffic and commuting, closing businesses and so on – and looks ahead to a better way to care for our island environment and fellow islanders. Our vision recognizes that the environmental, economic and social wellbeing of our community are intrinsically connected, and that creating and protecting safe, affordable and ecologically sound homes is essential to our existence as an intact and sustainable community. Our vision is in harmony with that of the Islands Trust which seeks to preserve and protect this incredible place.

Unfortunately, the status quo of hoping things will not change is failing all of us. Change is happening regardless and in unintended ways that are hurting our community, our ecosystem and our planet. Action is required immediately to set us on a better path.

There are actions the LTC can take now to address the Housing Crisis and Climate Emergency.

The LTC and its planning team have the ability help increase the supply of long-term, rental housing and affordable homeownership, and improve all the related issues of undersupply through existing planning tools. Below is a brief description of these specific actions which are endorsed by Salt Spring Solutions, the Salt Spring Island Housing Council Society, the Dragonfly Commons Housing Society and several other local organizations. We have kept the text concise for the purpose of this initial request but hope to spur further conversations in which we can provide fuller documentation and engage in dialogue with you, staff, the co-endorsers and other stakeholders.

We also note that this list is not comprehensive and that additional opportunities to address affordable housing exist – such as a clear approach for short term vacation rentals (STVRs).

Actions that SSI Local Trust Committee Can Take Now

1. Create a Senior Planner position that is dedicated to affordable housing projects, policies and bylaws on Salt Spring Island. (ie. cottages, suites and multi-unit housing solutions for families, workforce, youth and seniors, etc.)

2. Consider and integrate these changes to proposed Bylaw 512 - Affordable Housing - Cottages:

a) Provide incentives within the mapped R(f) zones for provision of rental housing that is rent-controlled.

b) Provide incentives within the mapped R(f) zones for "alternative sources" of potable water for cottages.

c) Remove floor area limit based arbitrarily on lot sizes, and return floor area limits to general regulations.

d) Consider removal or revision of item 2.2 (8) (as written, April 2019) to allow appropriately-sized stratas within R(f) zones. (See recommendation #7 in Affordable Housing Strategic Actions report, January 2019)

e) In order to maximize the potential impact and uptake of allowing year round use of only 400 of some 1300 properties currently zoned for a “ seasonal” cottage, we propose that the permitted use be granted on a first come first serve basis to applicants who meet a basic set of criteria:

• Notice of Intent to rent cottage on a full time basis
• Proof of sufficient water supply and safe waste management. The water supply must be from a sustainable alternative source if property is located in an area with known supplies issue
• Commitment to build and/or rent cottage within a reasonable time frame

3. Review and update Secondary Suites Bylaw 461:

a) Amend the 1200 L/d suite internal water requirement to a per bedroom rate that is the same or similar to cottage "proof of sufficient supply" that is in current practice at the CRD Building Office.

b) State explicitly that use of stored rainwater for secondary suites, with suitable plumbing is permitted following rainwater storage and use guidelines, including Bylaw 461 properties that fall within North Salt Spring Waterworks District (NSSWD)

c) Stipulate in Bylaw 461 that suites in accessory buildings are a possibility in all or designated appropriate zones.

d) Designate zones in Bylaw 461 for caretaker suites within commercial buildings in appropriate "village" areas of Salt Spring Island.

e) Advocate for an amendment to the NSSWD water moratorium to enable the construction of secondary suites and caretaker suites that use water alternative sources within the NSSWD service area

f) Expand the area of eligible properties for a secondary suite to areas within current and potential bus routes, and areas of known abundant ground or surface water supply. Consider creating a target number of suites that can be applied for on a first come first serve basis according to a set criteria as suggested above (see 2.e)

4. Develop a new bylaw to enact a zoning model that goes by the name "Ecovillage" or "Home Plate" in other jurisdictions.

• In essence, the residential/commercial land uses are designated within a footprint of the total lot area and remaining lot area is put into protection/conservation covenant.

• Allows for clustered housing for 1 principal residence and 2 or more secondary dwellings (suite, cottage, tiny homes, farmworker housing) as well as specified food production or other home-based business/commercial uses.

• Pre-existing DPAs apply.

• Floor area ratio for dwellings and/or number of secondary dwellings could increase in a manner that matches lot size increases. (ie. Either greater total floor area allocated to secondary residence, or a number and type of secondary residences stipulated in the bylaw).

• In other regions, such zoning models give the landowner "eco-credits" (also known as "density bonus in exchange for amenities") (e.g. rainwater use, permaculture design, zero energy, composting toilets, etc.).

5. 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").

6. Undertake locally-adapted actions based on the 2019 Islands Trust Affordable Housing Strategic Actions report (http://islandstrust.bc.ca/media/347400/a1_2019-01-24_affordablehousingstrategicactions_final.pdf).

7. Identify resources and publicly communicate a timeline for updating the Official Community Plan and Land Use Bylaw. It is time to undertake comprehensive updates of the Official Community Plan (OCP) and Land Use Bylaw (LUB) because:

• The OCP and LUB were adopted in 2008 and 1999 respectively. The LUB does not successfully implement the existing OCP. Both documents are out-of-date. They have only remained current through piecemeal amendments that fail to comprehensively integrate new legislation and best practices in land use planning, conservation, transportation or housing.

• Neither documents prioritize the Housing Crisis or Climate Emergency. Setting strong direction and providing a greater level of detail is required to make the meaningful, timely and lasting changes we need.

• Salt Spring Island is nearly 2 years out from the referendum on incorporation which was both decisive and divisive. It’s time to come back together as a whole community to renew our vision for tackling important issues while protecting this island we all hold dear.

8. Advocate loudly and persistently at the regional Trust Council and to senior staff at the Islands Trust head office in Victoria for sustainable, affordable housing to be recognized and resourced as a regional planning priority.

Substantial background research and analysis that supports implementation of actions #1 -#6 is already completed by Islands Trust staff and/or professional consultants (see References below plus staff reports related to bylaws 461 and 512). Further planning studies are not required. All we need to make real change is your leadership and dedicated resources.

We urge your quick response and look forward to working with you on implementation.

Respectfully,

Salt Spring Solutions

References

Islands Trust. 2019. Affordable Housing in the Islands Trust Area. Available here:

http://islandstrust.bc.ca/media/347398/baseline-affordable-housing-policies-updated-2019.pdf

Islands Trust. 2019. Affordable Housing Strategic Actions. Available here:

http://islandstrust.bc.ca/media/347400/a1_2019-01-24_affordablehousingstrategicactions_final.pdf

JG Consulting. 2015. IWAV and the Salt Spring Island Foundation. Salt Spring Island

Affordable Housing Needs Assessment. Available here:

http://www.islandstrust.bc.ca/media/340146/ssi-housing-needs-assessment-update-2015.pdf

Islands Trust. Salt Spring Community Affordable Housing Strategy (CAHS). (Coordinated by JG Consulting Services Ltd., 2011) Available here:

http://www.islandstrust.bc.ca/media/254661/CAHS%20report%20(FINAL%20approved%20by%20SC%2031-Mar-2011).pdf

JG Consulting Services. 2010. Islands Trust. Community Housing "Toolkit" "A Guide to Tools Available to Support the Development of Affordable Housing in the Trust Area".

Available here: http://www.islandstrust.bc.ca/media/338859/2010-community-housing-tool-kit.pdf

JG Consulting Services. 2015. Salt Spring Island Affordable Housing Needs Assessment. Available here:

http://islandstrust.bc.ca/media/340146/ssi-housing-needs-assessment-update-2015.pdf

Normandy Daniels. 2003. Options for Affordable Housing: New Solutions to the Housing Crisis in the Islands Trust Area

City of Maple Ridge. n.d. Farm Home Plate: Residential Development in the Agricultural Land Reserve. Available here: Farm Home Plate,

http://www.mapleridge.ca/DocumentCenter/View/13994/Farm-Home-Plate-Guide-PDF.