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