August 27, 2016 1 Comment
def – The slow death of a community directly attributable to the inaction of elected politicians to foresee and plan for the provision of a diversity of housing opportunities which allow first time home buyers and/or renters the economic ability to sustain their lives within the community…
Since about 2001, I have written extensively, on numerous occasions, about the need for provision of community housing on the island. During my tenure as Islands Trustee I established a Housing Committee, which, when I left office in 2005, was still active. I was hopeful the Committee members had gotten the message and that the next set of Trustees would take action based on the Committee’s recommendations.
During my term of office I also approved the rezoning of the 27 unit Murakami Garden Housing project and, in spite of opposition from my fellow Trustee, gave successful third reading to the 26 unit Norton Road affordable housing project, which should have green lighted it.
Fast forward eleven years and virtually nothing other than the completion of Murakami Gardens has been achieved since.
Home-icide Count 1
The Norton Road project was stalled for over 9 years (until January 15, 2015 when it was finally approved by the Local Trustees). The delay was a result of “negotiations” with the Islands Trust over the wording of an appropriate housing agreement.
The ridiculousness of this home-icide is laid out in a 2010 Driftwood article ( Norton Road Driftwood Article 2010 ).
The delay in getting final approval overlapped with the September 2014 North Salt Spring Waterworks District moratorium on development, thus stopping the project’s forward motion in its tracks before the housing agreement was approved.
Today the Norton Road property sits vacant and for sale, with, I assume, the owner, and understandably so, having reached terminal frustration. Who could possibly blame him?
Home-icide – Count 2
In October of 2012 I arranged meetings between property owners and the Trustees to discuss a proposal to rezone 9 lots off of Furness Road to create 18 affordable housing units – 9 affordable cottages, and 9 affordable secondary suites. The properties have 9 of the best wells on the island, ranging from 10 – 50 gallons a minute…enough water for 500+ homes. The properties are also on an existing common sewer system. The 9 lots already allowed 9 houses and 9 seasonal cottages.
Both Trustees felt it was a reasonable proposal given all of the factors.
However, after making official application in March 2013, which included a draft housing agreement I had prepared, and beating their heads against the Trust wall for a year and half, during which time they spent thousands of dollars in planning consultants and lawyer’s fees, finally, in utter frustration of the Trust’s inability to agree upon the form of a housing agreement, the owners threw in the towel on the seasonal cottages proposal and amended the application to just 9 secondary suites.
During that process Trustee Peter Grove publicly expressed his frustration over the inability of staff to draft a housing agreement that was satisfactorily acceptable to staff.
Home-icide – Count 3
The Secondary Suite pilot area bylaw was passed into law on May 2, 2013.
During the public hearings on the bylaw I had implored the Trustees not to create “pilot areas,” but instead just legalize secondary suites island wide. That argument fell on deaf ears.
The pilot areas that were subsequently put into law are almost exclusively in the North Salt Spring Waterworks District.
As a result, when the 2014 NSSWD moratorium came into effect secondary suites within the District were banned, unless a completely separate private water system is constructed to service the suite.
Worse yet, any suite which was not legally in existence prior to 1990 is now not only illegal, but, because of NSSWD’s moratorium and new bylaw (see – NSSWD Bylaw 274 ), grounds for shutting off the water supply to the primary residence unless those living in the suite are evicted.
Ask yourself who lives in secondary suites, and who benefits from having a mortgage helper? I’ll give you a hint, it ain’t the infamous/obligatory/notorious 1%.
Attempted Home-icide – Count 4
The Drake Road affordable housing project is currently stalled because of the NSSWD moratorium.
Attempted Home-icide – Count 5
The proposed rezoning of my Park Drive property to allow 8 affordable housing units is proceeding at a painstakingly snail’s pace, primarily due to the NSSWD moratorium. I have identified a work around for the water supply, but, am having challenges convincing Islands Trust staff that the alternative water supply I am proposing to use can legally be used under the existing legislation of BC.
I have just had a go-around with the Secretary to the Water Comptroller whom I actually had to educate on the legal definitions contained within the very act he is paid to oversee and regulate – the BC Water Utility Act.
With all due respect to the bureaucrats involved, the feeling I am getting is not one of “How can we help you achieve your goal of creating affordable housing on Salt Spring?” but, rather “How can we prevent you using an innovative approach to creating affordable housing?”
Any lay person would have laid this proposal to bed a long time ago in the belief it was legally impossible according to government officials.
Stop the Home-icide!
I have implored both of our current Trustees to just outright legalize seasonal cottages for full time residency. It makes no sense to, on the one hand, have an existing, permitted cottage un-inhabited, while on the other hand searching for solutions to our housing crisis, which, as of this moment, as a direct result of the hot real estate market over the past year and half, is now unprecedented in Salt Spring’s history.
All that one of the Trustees needs to do is this – propose the following resolution at the next LTC meeting:
That the LTC hereby directs Staff to (a) draft a bylaw to permit seasonal cottages to be used as full time, year round dwellings, and, (b) to bring the draft bylaw forward to the next LTC meeting for first and second reading.
The next LTC meeting the bylaw can be given 1st and 2nd readings, and a public hearing can be scheduled. Following the public hearing, the LTC can give 3rd reading and send the bylaw off to the Executive Committee for approval. The Executive Committee will approve the bylaw and send it back to the LTC for final approval.
With political will power, this could happen in a period of less than 5 months.
Do the same with legalizing suites everywhere on Salt Spring, including watersheds…(anyone else just hear gasps from the peanut gallery?).
The idea that suites have any significant impact on a watershed is ludicrous. There, I’ve said it, now get over it.
Secondary suites necessarily occur in existing homes, or, in homes that are going to be built anyway. The additional 900 sf (the allowable size for secondary suites) isn’t going to make a significant impact on the watershed. The additional car traffic through the watershed won’t. Any septic field must comply with Island Health and CRD standards for sizing, and if there is a problem the avenue for solution involves one complaint call to the health department (which given the record of complainers on the island should ensure compliance.)
The BS argument that secondary suites shouldn’t occur in watersheds is simply that. Further, every property on Salt Spring is in a watershed.
And, Island Health requires 50 gallons of potable water per day per person. That’s less than 1/25th of a gallon a minute. So, please, don’t try and use lack of water as any kind of a rational argument when you’re looking at water supply requirements.
Put the provision of affordable housing at the top of the Islands Trust priority list, where it currently doesn’t reside, and above the 6 other “priorities.” (see LTC Top Priorites )
Create a standing resolution that (a) gives any affordable housing rezoning or development proposal top priority, and (b) a direction to Staff that Staff is to implement a pro-active, positive, solution oriented policy to assisting affordable housing proposals, including proposing and/or formulating any necessary changes in either the OCP or land use bylaws to assist in bringing proposals to fruition.
In other words, make Staff part of the solution instead of part of the now typical red-tape obstructive process which is all too common.
Rescind the January 14, 2016 LTC resolution to proactively enforce against illegal suites and cottages in potable water watersheds. Such enforcement is unnecessary and damaging to the community, while having no significant positive effect on the environment.
Propose changes to the OCP to allow mixed market/community housing projects in Rural and Rural Uplands properties in clustered developments, where water and septic treatment can be adequately proven, on a 1 for 1 basis – one additional market unit for one community housing unit.
As an example – a 20 acre, Rural Upland property – 5 market lots and 5 community, 0.5 acre housing lots, clustered into a 6 acre area with the 14 acre balance being park/common/recreational property.
In other words, carve out as many community housing units as possible, whenever possible. Make it worthwhile for property owners to create opportunities for young families to get their foot in the real estate market door.
The Alternative to Solutions?
Continuing with the home-icide…do nothing and nothing will happen….as Einstein said, and has been oft repeated: