Money for Nothing and Their Tricks for Fees

Did you hear the one about the land use planning authority that operates at less than 10% efficiency that has just been awarded nearly $400,000 to figure out why it is so inefficient?

Check out this news release (in italics with my notes in red):

Islands Trust to improve development application process

Islands Trust has been awarded a $367,795 grant from the Province of B.C for a Development Application Service Delivery and Technology Improvement Program.

Through the proposed two-year Development Application Service Delivery and Technology Improvement Program, Islands Trust will hire a consultant to review its development application processing approach and identify opportunities to prioritise [sic] applications that improve equity and access to affordable housing. The Trust plans to replace the in-house property information system with a new system that provides more reporting options on applications and includes an online application portal for the public to make and track their applications.


“We are thrilled to receive grant funding from the Province of BC for our Development Application Service Delivery and Technology Improvement Program. This program will lead to a smoother, more efficient, and more transparent land use application process,” said Peter Luckham, Chair of Islands Trust Council. “I am also hopeful we will identify ways to support and fast track planning for affordable housing.”

In 2018, Islands Trust undertook an internal review of application processing and planning service delivery. The results of the review led Islands Trust to reorganize staff in the planning department so that some members of the planning team are focused on proactive long-range planning while others are focused on applications and to create a new position to manage responses to referrals from other agencies. NOTE – the results also led to the astounding revelation that the Trust was only 7.5% efficient in the processing of applications, leading to the conclusion taxpayers are picking up over $2 million a year in costs which should be covered by application fees.

In addition, Islands Trust initiated an internal process to review application processing, which is still underway. NOTE – The “internal process” was the result of my presentation to Trust Council in March 2020 when I read the riot act to them. (see https://islandstrust.wordpress.com/2020/03/11/reading-the-riot-act/ That resulted in a Trustee putting forth the question to staff as to whether my allegations that staff were not following application processing policies were true.

Through the internal review [March to June 2020] Islands Trust also identified that it needed to improve electronic systems used for recording, tracking and managing applications, and to get an independent review of current application processing practices to identify opportunities to improve efficiency, transparency and processing times and systems. NOTE – What is sadly, but not unexpectedly, missing from this news release, is the fact that the Director of Regional Planning Services reported back to Trust Council, in June 2020, that my allegations were true, because, in his own terminology, it was “impossible” for staff to follow the application processing policies which were originally written by…wait for it…staff back in 1993, and thereafter approved by Trust Council. We are now led to believe that for a period of 27 years staff had neglected to mention to Trust Council that the policies could not be followed, and, that as a result it was costing taxpayers over $2,000,000/year. At least that is what staff would like Trust Council and taxpayers to believe…that its impossible to be efficient.

In the last five years Islands Trust has processed a total of 2296 applications and referrals that included 63 rezoning applications; 94 subdivision applications; 217 development variance permits, 161 development permits; 116 temporary use permits; 32 agricultural land reserve applications; 1583 building permit referrals for the regional districts; and 29 other applications and referrals. The volume is increasing, with applications to Islands Trust in the first three months of 2021 being 84 per cent higher than the five year average.” NOTE – Obscured in this paragraph’s figures, through smoke and mirrors misdirection, are the following points –

(a) The majority of 1583 building permit referrals should never have happened. At some point, circa 2018, the Chief Administrative Officer of the Islands Trust and the Capital Regional District Chief Building Inspector, UNILATERALLY, and without any political direction from either of the elected Island Trustees or CRD Regional Directors, decided that all CRD building permit applications would have to be approved by Islands Trust staff before CRD would even look at them. The result, given the reported volume of 1583 referrals, was Islands Trust taxpayers picked up the tab for the review time, since the Islands Trust doesn’t charge a building permit applicant a fee for the review of the permit. In addition, the change slowed down building permit processing times, resulting in extra costs for applicants.


(b) The total of actual applications, applied for, and paid for by the applicants, over 5 years, is 683. That works out to an average of 3 a week…for a staff of 16 planners (see organization chart – https://islandstrust.bc.ca/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/Islands_Trust_WEB-Organizational_Chart.pdf.)

(c) And this is where it gets worse. The following is the approximate revenue from application fees, which are, according to Islands Trust Policy, to cover the cost of processing applications. But, as the 2018 review revealed, they only cover about 7.5%.

  • 63 rezoning applications; @$4,400 =                                       $277,200
  • 94 subdivision applications; @$2,000 =                                  $188,000
  • 217 development variance permits; @$935 =                      $202,895
  • 161 development permits; @$1,320 =                                     $212,520
  • 116 temporary use permits; @$1,100 =                                  $127,600
  • 32 agricultural land reserve applications; @$1,000 =        $32,000
  • 1583 building permit referrals; @$0.00 =                               $0.00
    Total revenue over 5 years                                                     $1,040,215
  • Total cost to process applications (7.5% efficiency) $13,869,533
  • Total cost to taxpayers over 5 years $12,829,318
  • Average cost to taxpayers per year $2,565,863

So, the promise from the Chair of the Trust Council is the new review will lead to a “smoother, more efficient, and more transparent land use application process.”

I truly wonder how that promise will age…and believe me, I’ll be watching for all of the improvements to a system that has been broken for decades and costing the taxpayer millions of dollars due to inefficiency and mismanagement at the highest levels of the Trust organization.



Federal Housing Program

Here’s what I would do if I was elected and appointed the Minister of Housing:

  1. Establish a legacy housing fund that would provide all Canadians with a 35 year, 1st mortgage, at 1% interest rate, on their principal residence.
  2. Promote the benefits of home ownership to Canadian tenants.
  3. On ALL government sponsored, not-for-profit, home ownership, housing projects, I would place a covenant on title restricting the resale value of the unit to the original price, plus the CPI increases over time. (e.g. – Buy an apartment at $300,000, sell it in 20 years, with a CPI increase of say 20%, you would be able to resell it at $360,000.) The covenant linking the CPI increase theoretically will make it affordable for the next generation.
  4. Wherever possible, convert rental units to ownership units, and provide grants to achieve that goal.

The result of reducing interest rates from say 2% to 1%, with a real 35 year mortgage (not a short term loan – e.g. 5 year term) will help to :


(a) provide stability in the housing market

(b) provide certainty to owners as to their monthly payments for 35 years.

(c) inject the differential between current interest rates and 1% into the economy.

(d) provide more mortgage funds through banks for commercial loans.

(e) make housing more affordable.

None of the above suggestions are asking for a free lunch.

“Mortgages are the most common and significant type of debt held by Canadians. Overall, about 40% of Canadians have a mortgage; the median amount owing is $200,000. Most Canadians will hold a mortgage at some point in their lives. For example, almost 9 in 10 Canadian homeowners aged 25 to 44 (88%) have one.” Source – https://www.canada.ca/en/financial-consumer-agency/programs/research/canadian-financial-capability-survey-2019.html

Using $200,000 as the median and 40% of Canadians representing about 15,000,000, means that there is about $3 trillion dollars owing in mortgages in Canada.

At 2%, and a 25 year amortization (current maximum allowed), there is over $12.715 billion a month being paid to service that debt.

Drop it to 1% with a 35 year amortization, and the payments would drop to $8.468 billion.

In other words, in that scenario, over $4 billion/month ($50 billion/year) would be injected into the Canadian economy.

Is the Canadian government (we the people) capable of lending itself $3 trillion of debt on well secured real estate?

I’m going to suggest we are good for it…because we are obviously good for the current system at twice the interest rate. “Print” the money, pay off the existing “mortgages” and get with the program.

Think all of this is impossible? Ask Norway how they are doing it with zero interest rate mortgages….https://nordiccreditrating.com/uploads/2020-05/NCR_-_Norwegian_savings_banks_in_a_zero_interest_rate_environment__0.pdf

It is time to make money on deposit in banks do something…in other words, time to end the interest, “free lunch” which everyone has been enjoying for the past hundred plus years. Put the money to work to create Canadian jobs and expand our entrepreneurship.

Just sayin’…if I was Minister of Housing…

Water we waiting for? A leaked document?

In November 2019, now 1 1/2 years ago, I exposed the fact that North Salt Spring Waterworks District’s Lake Maxwell system had an abundance of water in reserve, in spite of the moratorium which was put into effect in 2015.

One of the critical points I uncovered during my investigation was that in December 2014, NSSWD staff reported to the Board they had installed a control valve on their water tank property on Ganges Hill. The installation of that valve stopped the estimated 14 million gallons a year leak in the system. That leak had evidently been allowed for years, and, is evident in the pre-2015 data of bulk withdrawals.

Given that 14 million gallons is equal to about 30% of the ENTIRE metered withdrawals of 2015 to 2019, this “leak” should have been major news in 2014/15 given a temporary moratorium had already been announced in the summer of 2014.

And yet, the only place that information has ever been made public, other than previously on this blog site, was in the December 2014 minutes of the Board. (see page 2 – Operations https://northsaltspringwaterworks.ca/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Minutes-Trustees-Meeting-Dec-17-2014.pdf )

Five months after that Board meeting, in April 2015, the Lake Maxwell Hydrology study by consultant group Kerr Wood Leidel (“KWL”) was published and released to the public. No mention was made of the recapture of the “leak,” or, the effect it would have on the study itself….which was primarily to determine how much water was available for consumption.

KWL concluded, due to their drought and climate change projections, that no more than 72% of the current licensed amount should be utilized by NSSWD. 72% of the licensed amount (146,000,000 imperial gallons/year) is equal to 105,120,000 ig/year.

How much do ratepayers, on average, currently use of that 105,120,000?

Well, that depends on which years you use for determining the average.

The 2021 KWL study, for some unknown reason, used the 2010-2020 average = 56,943,439 ig/year (258,870 m3/year).

(See – 6.1.6 NSWWD currently withdraws about 258,870 m3/year from Maxwell Lake on average (2010-2020).)

However, if you don’t use any of the years before the 14,000,000 leak was stopped, then the average of the last six years (2015-2020) is just 47,758,863 ig/year.

That’s a difference of 56,943,439 – 47,758,863 = 9,184,576

9,184,576/47,758,863 = 20% of the average current bulk withdrawals from 2015-2020.

In other words, the 2021 KWL Study, by using the skewed 2010-2014 data (when the leak was occurring), has skewed the data, making it look like we are, on average, using 20% more water than what we are actually using, and, have been, on average, using for the past 6 years.

Why?

Further, the 2021 KWL Study has reduced the recommended maximum use of the water licenses which NSSWD hold, from 72% to 53%….coincidentally about 20%.

The 2010 to 2020 data CLEARLY show the recapture of the leak….notice the significant drop between 2013 and 2015, and then the levelling off of bulk withdrawals in the 46-48M range. (Remember, the leak was stopped late in 2014)

YearBulk Withdrawal
201067,358,103
201184,965,981
201277,102,961
201363,077,000
201458,720,800
201548,915,969
201648,902,000
201746,806,332
201847,081,000
201947,268,311
202047,579,568
Average 2015-202047,758,863 = 32.7% of total licensed amount

One of three things is going on here.

1. The data is being purposefully skewed, or

2. The data is being incompetently skewed, or

3. The consultants were not informed of the impact of the leak.

Perhaps no one at NSSWD told the consultants about the leak repair. That would raise questions about staff’s action, or lack thereof. Given the professionals at KWL, this is my preferred belief.

However, if staff did report the 2014 leak repair to KWL, and KWL chose to ignore that relevant data, then KWL, in my opinion, is arguably incompetent.

If NSSWD staff did report the repair, when did they report it to KWL? In 2014/15 or 2020/21?

The above questions need to be answered immediately, prior to the review of the moratorium, which is the next step in the process.

I plan on bringing the above questions to the attention of KWL and ask them directly, as a ratepayer, why they apparently have not taken into consideration the “leak” repair in either of their reports.


Open letter to KWL:

June 1, 2021

To – Deighen Blakely, M.Sc., P.Eng. Project Manager, Tara Paradis, EIT Junior Engineer, Craig Sutherland, M.Sc., P.Eng. Technical Reviewer

May 2021 KWL Project No. 2932.025-300

Dear Deighen, Tara and Craig,

I have reviewed both the 2015 KWL and 2021 KWL Lake Maxwell Studies, and find important data and relevant historical events apparently missing.

I have placed my findings on my blog at Water we waiting for? A leaked document? | islandstrust (wordpress.com)

I would appreciate it if you could respond to the questions I raise at the end of the article at your earliest convenience.

As your 2021 study will form an important part of the dialogue which will now proceed regarding NSSWD’s moratorium, I believe if corrections/additions/amendments to your two reports need to be made, now is the time to do so.

If you would like to discuss any portion of my blog, please feel free to contact me directly.

Thank you for your attention.

Best regards,

Eric Booth



Missing Diamonds

This is a tale of how things get lost between cracks on an island where there is no government cohesion, and history is lost due to bureaucratic and political turnovers.

In March 1994, the following was reported in the Driftwood –

“Two bylaws concerning a large subdivision on Stewart Road passed their first reading.

The first, Bylaw 323, proposes the 507-acre property be rezoned Comprehensive Development 9 (CD9)…

Under the new zone the same number would be created with a minimum average parcel size of 11.5 acres. The second bylaw, no. 325, rezones an 80-acre parcel of Rural Residential (RR) land to Parks and Reserves (PR). The land is slated to be given to the community by the landowner. Trust staff recommended Bylaw 323 be considered for fourth and final reading “if and when a comprehensive development plan has been registered against property titles at the expense of the owner.”

One month later, in April 1994, the following was reported:

“Swapping an increase in density for a new baseball park is a novel part of a rezoning bid for 507 acres of property between Stewart Road and Ford Lake. Proposed development of the property owned by Trincomalli Developments Ltd. requires rezoning of 427 acres of Upland and Forest-zoned property to a Comprehensive Development 9 zone through Bylaw 323… Current zoning would allow subdivision of the property into 21 lots. Bylaw 323 would increase that number to 37 and result in dedication of 80 acres of public parkland adjoining Crown land near Ford Lake.

As Salt Spring planner Linda Adams said strict rules and legal mechanisms are in the legislation. Adams explained last Friday, the ball park deal is possible because of a new Municipal Act section dealing with “amenities zoning.” In exchange for construction of a multi-diamond baseball facility, the developer could receive the equivalent of four more lots. Adams said strict rules and legal mechanisms are set forth in the legislation, so that additional lots would not receive legal title until the ball park was completed. She added that because the Salt Spring Island Parks and Recreation Commission was willing to give up the right to develop four lots on a property [210 Kanaka Road] it owns near the new secondary school in Ganges, an overall density increase on the island would not result Adams said the zoning for amenities concept comes from “a recognition that zoning authorities have incredible power to increase property values.

“If they are going to do that for a developer, the philosophy is that the community should benefit as well.” It is suggested that developers give communities some form of amenity valued at 75 per cent of what the developer gains from rezoning. If one new lot valued at $100,000 results, the community should receive $75,000 worth of amenities.

https://islandstrust.files.wordpress.com/2021/04/driftwood-bylaw-323.pdf

Bylaw 323 was passed into law, and, as a result, eventually, in 1997, a covenant restricting the number of dwellings on the Kanaka Road property was registered on title.

The Comprehensive Development 9 Zone, which was passed and put into Land Use Bylaw 123 specifies the requirement for a ball park.

And, the Schedule to the CD9 Zone has the exact specifications of the Recreational Ball Park Facility which was to be constructed.

So, fast forward to April 2021, 27 years later and guess what? There is no ball park. Call me crazy, but I’m just going to make the assumption here that no ball park will ever be constructed.

Which brings us to CRD PARC’s current proposal to downzone the Kanaka Road property from residential to a park maintenance facility.

With a few words and the stroke of a pen, the Islands Trust covenant could be removed by the Local Trust Committee, thus freeing up all 7 densities on the CRD property. With a rezoning application, both CRD PARC lots (210 and 220 Kanaka) could be amalgamated and rezoned to Residential 1 and voila – we could have 18 affordable housing dwellings.

The question which needs to be asked of our elected CRD and Islands Trust representatives is this – Are we in a housing crisis, or in a park maintenance crisis?

To date, CRD PARC’s version of events is sadly lacking in the above historical accuracy and details. Perhaps it is time they do some homework on the subject and rethink their decision.

Waking up to Trust’s Inefficiencies

Its now been a year since I took Trust Council to task in a rather stinging indictment of their self-admitted, less than 10% efficiency in processing applications…the lowest by far in the Province. (see – https://islandstrust.wordpress.com/2020/03/11/reading-the-riot-act/ )

Trust Council has just published the results of their online survey on the 2021-2022 budget comments.

It appears Question 8 was as close as Staff wanted to get to the thorny, inefficiency issue.

“In terms of your support for increased funding for long-term planning work, would you still support this if it meant less funding for application processing, resulting in slower application processing times?”

262 people said No…the following are 200 of their comments, with my favourite ones highlighted in bold. My absolute favourite was short, to the point and underscored the $2,000,000+ waste of taxpayer dollars (about ¼ of the entire Trust budget) that goes on every year processing applications inefficiently – “The only thing slower than now is dead stop.”

.

Application processing should be sped up by simplifying and streamlining the process. At this point it looks like all the planners do is be nit-picky and have ridiculous requirements for changes that are just plain common sense. if the LUB was changed in a way that allows more freedoms for livelihoods and ecological, communal land stewardship and small-scale businesses, there would not be a need for so many applications!

Application process needs to at least stay the same or somehow carefully be completed more quickly

Enabling the application process should be the priority.

Application processing needs triage. Applications that favour OCP goals should come before some guy who wants to build a shed, for example.

I don’t support more funding for any part of your organization and I’m offended by the way this question presumes a given opinion

not in support of increased funding

applications should be looked at and decided on much quicker. perhaps a “common sense” approach for simple or routine applications

The only thing slower than now is dead stop

It seems to me that long term planning is not related to “application processing time.” This seems to be a sleight of hand.

Application processing should be removed from your purvue.

I don’t support more spending and would prefer you out of this

Any and all application should be processed in no more than 2 weeks.

The application process needs to change too. It needs to be more efficient, collaborative, and respectful of the input and knowledge of the applicants.

Don’t support

Cut the new projected by law enforcement officers, and get people working CREATIVELY on new ideas.

This is not just Saltspring’s problem, this is many communities problems. We need to find a way to make it possible for the average Joe and Jo to live and work here and be clean, safe and healthy! If not, what will happen to this island?? We need living places for nurses, care aids, grocery store workers, gas station attendants, let alone teachers and doctors and optometrists! Come on guys, we need a full vibrant community that includes EVERYONE.

I’m was totally unimpressed with the delay tactics I saw put into use: there must be means to put local= interests and community interests above private interests. Not all projects before the trust should be dealt with in the same manner—some should even be expedited with faster processing times!

ridiculous leading question. please focus on getting present crisis solved

There is no reason to slow the processing time with less funding.

This is a shockingly poorly worded question… who wrote this question?

but I don’t support increased funding

I don’t see how long term planning and application process are in the same ball park

The application process is not the issue–relying on constant planning is the issue

The current application processing time is excessive.

I don’t see why times would be reduced. The process should remain the same.

I am convinced the better use of people resources should be the target.

The application process was already very slow, so it would discourage residents taking permits for work if it takes even longer.

Processing times are ridiculous slow right now!

I said to decrease funding for planning work, not increase…

There is already too many levels of government involved in getting anything done. As someone who has renovated my house I have seen the costs of having to apply for the same thing to multiple government agencies combined with a bizarre application of rules that appear at the last minute after initial approvals have been given.

awaiting results of policy statement changes

There is already such a slow process for planning applicants; a streamlined, much speedier process is needed – not more delays.

Planning time is already far too slow

I don’t support increased funding.

I expect processing times for routine requests to be reasonably short.

Same trust needs to go

Need to speed up not slow down planning processes

Planners seem to know little about our community and give us theories of planning.

That is a hard one. I like a thorough review process on all application…not just community projects like Affordable Housing.

No increased funding for planning please.

Less red tape and simplified processes would alleviate the issue

I don’t support increased funding.

Applications already take years to get through on every project that our community fully supports – especially any type of low income housing. Why isn’t there a tax like Vancouver – extra tax on any home that is someone’s non-main residence? We have tons of houses that are mainly empty for the year, and no low income housing for the folks that live and work here year round, it is a disgrace.

question is confusing/increase funding in first part and less in second

It’s already stupidly schlerotic

Time is of the essence.

Streamline your process with clearer regulations and guidelines.

Just prioritize the work.

I don’t understand why the two can’t happen together

Silly question . What would be your answer ?

I have been through this process. It is tediously slow already.

Odd wording

This is a leading question suggesting I support….when I just answered in the negative to the previous question.

My opinion is that a reasonable amount of time must transpire. Most delays add to cost. Processes need to be fair to the question at hand and the larger good and fair to the person attempting to accomplish a goal.

You should be able to increase it all with more taxing I would assume. Don’t rob Peter to pay Paul

It is important to process applications on a timely and fair basis otherwise people will avoid the application process altogether by a variety of means undermining the reasons for planning policies in the first instance

in my taxes I pay $75 for RCMP, $53 for the Langdale dock, $80 for the hospital and $513 fir the Islands trust. Enough said!

I think most of the slow down is due to ever increasing requirements with virtually no benefit

sorry but services still need to be maintained. However, if the slow down in speed was due to more care being taken in terms of the review of the application, then that would be a good thing.

Move away from complaint driven enforcement.

Red tape is too long now

Sooner is better!

I do not support increased funding

I noted I DON’T support increased funding. This is a slanted questions.

More efficiently not more funding

Move resources from BEO/BEN to free it up for OCP and LUB allocations. If the bylaws are not in keeping with community will (as on Denman) then bylaw enforcement is a waste of tax-payers money.

I see that as causing more issues for our residents.

Just slow down the planning for 2 years until the pandemic settle down!

Processing times are already very lengthy for projects currently underway

There appear to be other areas to find savings.

As it is I feel the application process is sometimes onerous for applicant

Turnaround time of permit applications has ben too slow

I don’t support increased funding.

Simply, speed up the process by being less intensive in staff studies and presentations

The two aren’t mutually exclusive

The IT need drastic budget cuts.

It doesn’t need a tradeoff…. reduce costs everywhere and the process will speed up.

Applications are already too slow & costly to the applicant.

I do not support increased funding for long-term planning work.

the application process need to be redesigned to be simpler, quicker and less restrictive for small scale projects.

With increased funding there should be a fair process to deal with applications in a timely manner.

Not sure how long processing takes now but understand it’s slow

Slow application processing is a problem, please don’t reduce resources there.

Wake up folks. It high time you learn to reduce spending.

Application processing is one of the major interactions withe community and should be a program focused on quick response. Can this be optimized to improve efficiency. Eg standard/routine applications dealt with almost by rote

Depends on how long we’re talking

Already takes forever to get applications approved.

Frustration leads to non compliance

Be more efficient with use of current funding.

Public service is a public service. Taxes pay for public service. I support taxation.

What objectives or incentives do planning staff members have to meet set approval time objectives but it depends on how much slower the application processing time would be; 6 months, a year…?

the IT is underfunded. is there any way to get money from the provincial government to compensate for the low level of municipal/provincial property taxes going to the IT?taxes

Reduce processing times by eliminating

Same reason as before. If you got the big bucks you got IT’s ear.

slower application processing time isn’t sustainable

The only excuse for slow processing times is too much red tape. I think much of the problem stems

from the IT not properly understanding its role and how to design its operations to fulfill its mandate in an efficient manner than employs the local community even more than it already does..

Failure to “Wake” Up to Affordable Solutions

Everything Old is New Again

The following are draft minutes from a January 31, 2011 advisory meeting, held outside of the public’s eye and knowledge, with former Whistler Housing consultant, Tim Wake, Trustees George Ehring and Christine Torgrimson, Henry Kamphof, CRD Housing, Trust Planner Susan Palmer, Islands Trust Regional Planning Manger David Marlor (now Director of Local Planning Services) and housing consultant Janis Gauthier. If you want to skip the notes and go to the recommendations (highlighted in red), scroll down to the bottom.

The Chair asked each Trustee and guest for their priorities for the day’s discussion using the circulated “Guidelines for discussion with Tim Wake”.. The following priorities were articulated:

– How to maintain affordability other than with housing agreements;

– How to use the local bylaws to control affordable housing;

– Housing agreements;

– Creation of a housing council and the Whistler experiences;

– Water supply;

– Discussion should be grounded in the reality of the current situation;

– Pilot areas within the Salt Spring context; and

– Best approach to existing suites and cottages.

The Trustees outlined the key issues on Salt Spring Island for Tim Wake.

Tim Wake commented that the Salt Spring Island situation is similar to Whistler insofar as there is a challenge to supply both workforce housing and “other” supportive housing. It’s important to keep the two separate. The gap between people who can afford market ownership housing and those who qualify for subsidized housing has grown. This is referred to as middle sector housing or workforce housing and represents the biggest need.

Wake noted that there is a good system in place for the delivery of subsidized housing which requires major funding from senior levels of government.

Wake suggested that putting housing agreements on rental units is not the best approach given the cost. It’s better to respond to people who want to own their own homes and consider how to make ownership possible for these people. This in turn will reduce pressure on the rental inventory. The first thing to do is to legalize suites.

Janis Gauthier observed that the seasonal use of cottages is an issue on Salt Spring. It means many people have to move each spring. There are concerns about the poor condition of some cottages.

Tim Wake said that Whistler had success enforcing and inspecting units based on health and safety issues. When they hear about substandard conditions, the fire department is asked to inspect.

There are concerns that legalized cottages could be used as short term vacation rentals. Rental agreements would better ensure there are controls.

Tim Wake explained that Whistler had the same problems with suites as with separate buildings (cottages). Secondary suites have always been permitted in Whistler and initially the market was providing them at a rate of about 50 per year. For the owner, the suite provided security and helped with the mortgage. In 1990 and 1992 when house prices rose, the number of new suites decreased. About 1997, Whistler required that every second residence in a new subdivision include a suite before the owner received an occupancy permit. The suite had a covenant on it that specified occupancy and rent. This was not a good solution because suites were being built under duress and never rented. Enforcement of the housing agreements was difficult. The conclusion was that you can’t force people to rent suites in their houses.

Other communities (Bowen Island, for example) have not had a lot of uptake with straight legalization of suites even without any income or rental restrictions. Adding a housing agreement would likely reduce the uptake further.

Planner Palmer asked if having a housing agreement on a suite or cottage would affect the owner’s ability to get a mortgage.

Tim Wake responded that it is usually not any more difficult to get a mortgage, but when doing a statement of income, the owner can only apply 50% of the rent as income. Thus with a lower, more affordable rent, it may be tougher to get a mortgage. This leads to vacation rentals being so attractive.

The Whistler Bylaw requires that suites be rented for not less than one month. In addition, commercial accommodation is taxed differently. Another tool is the Occupancy Declaration on employee owned deed-restricted units. They started with a Statutory Occupancy Declaration, but abandoned that. Now it’s voluntary and compliance has improved; 66% of 500 units complied.

The Declarations (who was living there, where they worked and the rent amount) are sent by email so it’s easy to administer.

There are no Housing Agreements on the 1000 rental suites. Generally owners didn’t charge exorbitant rents because when they do, the number of people living in a unit tends to increase, with resultant wear and tear or damage. 850 of the rental suites are market rents; the rest are mostly covenanted and affordable. Suites have always been legal and only a small percentage are cottages. Legalizing suites provides more opportunity for surveillance and assists in managing the existing inventory.

It was noted that the growth rates experienced by Whistler are very different from the Salt Spring situation where only 38 building permits were issued last year. The Chair noted there is a desire to ensure affordability if suites are legalized. Tenants might have more clout if suites were legal.

For Tim Wake, the solution starts with affordable home ownership. If you apply Housing Agreements and restricted rents to suites, you’d be moving middle income tenants out of their accommodation in order to house needier people. Subsidized housing is not a municipality’s responsibility. Housing Agreements are costly up front, and they’re better used on ownership units.

RPM Marlor commented that Housing Agreements can work if governments are providing something as well, i.e. funding, increased densities or other incentives.

The potential for more STVRs operating out of legalized cottages is a real concern, on Salt Spring, and the STVR Bylaw is costly, slow and difficult to enforce.

Tim Wake spoke of one STVR enforcement case in Whistler where bad publicity played an effective deterrent role.

Regarding multi-unit buildings, Tim Wake said Housing Agreements on such projects are not very attractive to developers. You need to be able to bonus the developer to get him to build, and then have some means for the housing authority to take ownership. It’s hard to impose covenants on a third party.

There was a question about available government grants (RRAP for secondary suites), and Tim Wake replied that $24,000 is not a sufficient incentive to shift someone into accepting a covenant on their property. Incentives that do work for developers include an increase in density, relief from fees and charges, and creating good communication opportunities with developers. It’s important to explore where the ‘win-win’ is.

There was a question about the cost of managing Housing Agreements. Tim Wake responded that every project is a one-off, with the standard costs plus, and further, that Housing Agreements seem to need ongoing modification.

There was a question about whether a Housing Agreement with an expiry date might be an alternative, but Tim Wake said it wasn’t really a viable approach.

In general, said Wake, Housing Agreements are not worth the effort for a handful of rental suites, but are worthwhile on affordable owned units. He added that putting occupancy restrictions on owned units did not work. The focus should be on letting the market provide rental suites and finding ways to make it work for the market.

At noon, Henry Kamphof arrived at the meeting. He said there is talk of doubling the CRD’s affordable housing budget and that there should be more emphasis on worker housing.

Traditionally 75% of funds have gone to supportive housing.

According to Wake, continuing the status quo with suites and cottages will have a negligible impact on affordable stock but would affect standards of health and safety and the existence of sub-standard units.

The discussion moved on to the matter of the proposed pilot project for legalizing suites and cottages. The Chair outlined the reasons a pilot project has been proposed, noting it takes into consideration Salt Spring’s water issues and also responds to the results of community consultations. One goal would be to gather data from the participants.

Henry Kamphof spoke about the so-called California model where developers must address different income segments in the community within a development proposal.

Tim Wake reported that Bowen Island is looking at zoning solutions to create opportunities for building more affordable ownership units i.e. zoning to permit smaller units, combining lots to permit multi-family units, upzoning to permit more units; creating more duplexes, stratifying large homes into flats and other innovative approaches to encourage the creation of smaller homes.

He noted that people often don’t want to buy units with Housing Agreements; they commonly see home ownership as the route to a retirement fund.

Returning to the subject of the pilot project, Planner Palmer asked if a time limited Bylaw with a sunset clause might work as a tool to legalize suites and cottages.

Tim Wake responded that it’s better to open a door and encourage compliance, not open a window and require people to jump through it.

Henry Kamphof added that a pilot project would need to run for 3 – 5 years to get a good sense of how it is working.

Trustee Ehring is concerned about how to deal with suites and cottages which are outside the pilot area and are therefore illegal.

Trustee Torgrimson commented that pilot areas would be compliant with OCP criteria and reflect the heightened concern about watershed areas on Salt Spring.

Tim Wake suggested that a pilot area might only apply to new development, and the rest would be grandfathered. He asked if Salt Spring would likely see a lot of applications to build new housing with suites? There could be issues around grandfathering suites which don’t meet building code, a matter which might call for legal advice. RPM Marlor said it would be possible to do a bylaw review when a certain number of suites are registered. If legalization were opened up to the whole island, you could then develop strong arguments for some exclusion.

There was some discussion about jurisdictions implementing regulations around the collection of rain water as a means to resolve water issues.

Janis Gauthier commented that ‘pilot’ implies a sense of temporary or provisional status. It was agreed that ‘pilot’ was perhaps not the most useful term.

Henry Kamphof mentioned that Esquimalt is talking about allowing housing in back yards or on back lanes.

Tim Wake made several closing points:

1) start a housing corporation or authority as soon as possible: regional would be work best for all the islands. It would be an agency that would facilitate partnerships to develop nonsubsidized affordable home ownership. The Whistler Housing Authority is a good example of an agency that brokers between developers and the local government and is not a top-down funded model. Funding comes from the projects, not from taxes;

2) focus on affordable ownership units; and

3) legalize suites and cottages without restrictions.

In Response – Covid, HCQ and zinc

Proposed Salt Spring Island Animal Control Leash Law Amendment

March 15, 2020

CRD Director Gary Holman

Hi Gary

As you are aware, the dog situation in Ganges has become a nightmare for many, including those trying to walk with small dogs on leashes through packs of unleashed dogs.

The current CRD Bylaw does not require dogs to be on leash, only under “direct control” which is not defined, and, effectively means if an owner of an unleashed dog says, “Fido come here,” and the dog obeys, it could be argued the dog is under “direct control.”

I witness, on a daily basis, dogs off leash crapping in Centennial Park or digging up the park’s plantings, or barking or snapping at children and parents, etc..

The situation is out of control, and, before someone is seriously injured, I believe it is time to put a “leash law” into effect for the Ganges area.

This is a link to the Community Discussion group…I’ve done a search of the group posts with “dog” in it, and it gives you a good idea of the state of affairs – https://www.facebook.com/groups/536195140049782/search/?query=dog&epa=SEARCH_BOX

Rather than trying to amend the existing CRD bylaw, I’ve done an amended version which would be specific to Salt Spring, designating an area around Ganges as a “leash area.”

While the bylaw duplicates most of what is already in the existing bylaw, it is likely the easiest way to get the bylaw through the CRD, by making it Salt Spring specific.

All commercial businesses, and the vast majority of the public, including the schools, would applaud you for making this a reality, and, it would give bylaw enforcement a greater ability to get the situation under control.

Give me a call when you have a minute to discuss.

Thanks.

Eric

Kanaka Place

Kanaka Place, consisting of 32, energy efficient, apartments, is now in the conceptual design phase.

We are currently seeking expressions of interest in the form of a quick, 12 question survey here.

We ask that you please share this with any of your friends, employers, employees, and family members through social media.

With your help, and if we get enough positive response, this green housing project may come to fruition.

Initial, preliminary, conceptual site design and floor plans include:

  • 600 square feet
  • one bedroom
  • Insulated Concrete Form (ICF) construction
  • Net Zero insulated, (R70 equivalent)
  • low energy
  • polished concrete floor
  • radiant air heating
  • covered, enclosed patio with passive solar design
  • 5 appliances
  • grey water recycling for toilet and laundry
  • heat pump hot water system
  • all units south facing
  • soundproofed
  • fireproofed
  • full 4 piece bath
  • solar assisted radiant heat
  • centrally located with easy walking/biking to all services
  • wheel-chair accessible on main floors
  • common roof top deck area
  • 2 person maximum per unit
  • $1,600-$1,800/month, long term lease (not including utilities)
  • possibility of long term lease to own.

Proposed floor plan layout:

Proposed conceptual site plan:

Solutions

I don’t believe in complaining about problems without offering solutions.

I have previously outlined a number of actions which can be taken by our locally elected representatives, known as “local trustees,” to alleviate the housing crisis on Salt Spring.

This article will again offer those solutions.

  1. Legalize all 900 potential seasonal cottages on Salt Spring which were not legalized under the recent Bylaw 512.
  2. Legalize the use of suites on every property on Salt Spring.
  3. Rezone all Rural (R) and Rural Uplands (RU) properties to allow for a density of one permanent dwelling per 2 acres. (e.g. 10 acre properties may have up to 5 dwellings), with the following restrictions enshrined on title:
    1. On properties with more than one dwelling, all dwellings must be strata-titled via a building strata with designated common property and limited common property,
    2. Each building strata lot in excess of one dwelling on a property, must be covenanted, in favour of the Islands Trust, to restrict the sale price of the dwelling to the actual cost of the construction and sale, plus 25%. E.g. – Cost of construction and sale $200,000 – Sale price = $250,000, with a maximum ceiling sale price of $300,000 (as of 2020).
    3. Resale value of secondary dwellings will be restricted in the covenant to the purchase price plus the accumulated average, annual Consumer Price Index (CPI) increase, on Vancouver Island and the Capital Regional District, plus improvements up to a maximum of $5,000/yr, and $25,000 cumulative.
    4. Similarly, rents are to be pegged via covenant at a rate no more than 10% above amortized monthly cost of equivalent sale price at current 5 year fixed rate term mortgages. (e.g. $300,000 sale price = $1276/month, 5 year fixed, 25 year amortization. Add 10% = $127.00 = $1403/month rent. )
    5. Sales and rentals of secondary dwellings will be restricted to those who meet island resident/employee eligibility criteria.
  4. Apart from Islands Trust covenant ONLY CRD Building Inspection water, septic building code requirements need to be met prior to issuance of building permit.
  5. Tiny homes, Z240RV trailers and 5th wheels, are to be included within the definition of “mobile home” within the Land Use Bylaw.

Note that at the proposed maximum sale price, $300,000, minus 25%= $240,000 divided by approximate cost of construction $300/sf (2020) = 800 sf. maximum. Thus by capping the sale price, and profit, there is an automatic, de facto, tflexible, cap on the size of secondary dwelling size.

Given the caps are related to CPI’s, the theory is, as time moves along, pricing should follow suit.

Some of the components of the above solutions aren’t mine. I was advised of them in 2003 by Whistler Housing Authority consultant, Tim Wake.

Tim subsequently tried to get the message across to Trustees in 2011, but his advice was actually censored by them (see my expose at https://islandstrust.wordpress.com/2020/02/05/hopefully-post-mortem-comments-on-512/ ).

The benefit to the Community in implementing the above solutions is that they allow private property owners to become part of the solution. The 25% profit margin and caps, with reduced red tape, work hand in hand to encourage community housing creation.

All of the above bylaw changes could easily be implemented in less than 6 months.

BUT, that would require political will power that is apparently virtually nonexistent.