Crisis “Redefined”…

Definition of crisis

1a: the turning point for better or worse in an acute disease or fever

b: a paroxysmal attack of pain, distress, or disordered function

c: an emotionally significant event or radical change of status in a person’s life e.g. – a housing crisis

2: the decisive moment (as in a literary plot) e.g. – The crisis of the play occurs in Act 3.

3a: an unstable or crucial time or state of affairs in which a decisive change is impending especiallyone with the distinct possibility of a highly undesirable outcome e.g. – a housing crisis, the island’s rental crisis

b: a situation that has reached a critical phase e.g. – the employment crisis caused by the housing crisis.

Take your pick of virtually any of the above and ask yourself if, after over 20 years of being in a “crisis,” is waiting another 2 years, or more, to take concrete action at solving the crisis treating the crisis like a crisis?

Sorry Trustees. Not. Good. Enough.


1. Salt Spring’s housing crisis has existed for over 20 years.

2. The housing crisis is getting worse, month by month, as rental units are sold and occupied by permanent residents.

3. House prices are now far beyond what any young person or family can afford.

4. Construction costs are skyrocketing and will continue to do so because of the new BC Step Plan building code.

5. MINIMUM combined market bare land lot cost and 1,000sf new construction cost = $500,000.

6. MINIMUM house price for sale of existing stock now $500,000+

7. Rental stock is decreasing every month. Virtually no existing houses are being bought for investment as rental units.

8. Rental rates are increasing every month due to low supply and high demand.

9. 23% (10,000+ acres) of our entire island’s Douglas fir forested area is already preserved and protected in perpetuity in conservation covenants and parkland, and yet is not managed.

10. Island employers and employees are severely impacted by the housing crisis.

11. None of the current “affordable housing” projects are “owner occupied”…they are ALL rentals, thereby condemning occupants to a lifetime of rental servitude.

12. There is an insignificant number of illegal Short Term Vacation Rentals as evidenced by the only 21 outstanding bylaw files on illegal STVR’s.

13. Employees are now being ferried/bussed in from off-island, ala Nantucket Island or Martha’s Vineyard.

The proverbial writing on this wall is clear. The real estate market trends are clear. The NIMBYism and BANANAism trends are clear. The rental trends are clear. Increased construction cost trends are clear.

With all due respect, the only thing that isn’t clear is why our elected politicians aren’t clear that it is far beyond time for studying, bringing in new regulations, and/or more environmental navel gazing.

We are now being told that all we need is to consult with the public, find out what they want and/or need, and then try and please everyone with a solution.

I have news for you. You will NEVER please everyone. If you go down this road of yet another costly, 2 year study, plan, long/drawn out consultation, you will end up not a single step closer to a solution than you already are.

With all due respect again, this is NOT leadership in the face of a 20+ year crisis that worsens by the day, as construction costs follow suit with rising real estate prices. There have been over 45 home sales on the island this year OVER $1,000,000. The average home for sale is already OVER $1 million.

Delays in decision making are expensive as witnessed by the delays in Salt Spring Commons going from a $6.5 million budget to close to $10 million over a period of a few years.

The fact that someone has to ask the Local Trust Committee to place affordable housing on the priority list speaks VOLUMES.

I recommended to one of the Trustees back in December to pass a standing resolution to direct Staff that ANY application before the LTC which had a component of affordable housing be given priority over other applications. I reiterated that recommendation again 3 months later. The Trustee agreed with me in both instances, and here we are, 9 months later and no action.

Real action is needed now, not in 2 years. Trustees were elected to lead and solve land use issues. Under the Local Government Act they are, in effect, elected to ensure sufficient housing is available for their community.

You knew, or should have known, about the crisis before you were elected. You should already have envisioned what is necessary to solve the problem. You should have been prepared immediately to take whatever action is necessary to address the problem.

It is NOT good enough to say, after 2 years into your 4 year mandate, we just need to form just one more committee, consult just one more time with the community (and listen to all the naysayers), get just one (or a dozen) more professionals’ advice on how to solve the problem.

The answers were all available 20 years ago. The answers will NOT be liked by everyone.

To restate, it is, and will be, IMPOSSIBLE to please everyone. The opportunity to secure land for community housing becomes less with the passing of each day, week, month, year.

What IS possible is decisive action. Action that may result in you either being re-elected because you have actually done something to solve the problem, or turfed out on your ear (if you intend to run for public office again) if your proposed solution was unpalatable. Speaking from personal experience, sometimes the right thing to do is not the popular thing to do.

I was once asked, “What’s it like to be a politician?” My response was, “Its like winning a popularity contest, where the first prize is you immediately become less popular.” What I didn’t add on was “…if you’re actually doing your job.”

Salt Spring Island politics shouldn’t be about being loved by everyone. It should be about being able to do the right thing in spite of what a vocal minority says. It is about putting the Community’s interests before a neighbourhood’s interests. There is no “Official Neighbourhood Plan.”

I realize this rant will fall on deaf ears. My rants on the crisis have been falling on deaf ears for nigh on 20 years.

I’m posting this, not in expectation that anything of any significance will be achieved, BUT, in the hope that 2 years from this November, 2 young, creative, visionaries will be elected to do what is necessary to solve the crisis…piss some people off by doing not the easy thing…but the hard thing…the right thing.

I truly hope I am wrong, and this new committee and LTC will bravely go where we need to go, but obviously I am not optimistic given the number of committees and regurgitated studies which have historically come before this “new” proposed committee and study.

I once asked Kevin Bell advice on an issue that was before me as an elected Trustee. Without batting an eye he said, “Why the hell are you asking me? I voted for you because I believed you were an intelligent enough guy that would do what was necessary. Do your job!” I took that compliment and piece of “advice” to heart.

Yes, we elect leaders to….wait for it…lead. To make decisions which, if we use Provincial or Federal politics as any kind of an indicator, will at best, please less than 1/2 the voters.

Be brave, do what you think is right. But PLEASE don’t take OUR time to do it. You may have heard recently that there is a “crisis” going on. Please don’t turn the crisis into another two year, make work project for bureaucrats, like the recent “seasonal cottage” project, or the phased secondary suite project before it, both of which, at the end of the day, did virtually nothing to solve the problem.

Be radical and propose bylaws that will actually solve the crisis, vote on them, pass them, and then stand on your laurels proudly. I can guarantee you many people will hate/vilify you for your decisions…BUT…if you think you’re smart enough to craft bylaw amendments that will increase density in some neighbourhoods (the most basic of necessity in addressing the crisis) without pissing a good number of people off, I’ve got news for you – you’re not…its a fool’s errand.

If, on the other hand, you are NOT prepared to take the heat that will come with ANY decision which will significantly address the crisis, I respectfully suggest you get out of the kitchen now….not 2 years from now…but now…resign and make room for someone with fortitude and the best interests of this dying community.

But there I go again, repeating myself…

Yes, there has been a crisis in progress on this issue for decades, now there is yet one more delay in progress…one more study…one more committee…two more years.

One Response to Crisis “Redefined”…

  1. Rhonan says:

    You should send this as a letter to the LTC now….publish it on the exchange…

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