Do You Want a Sustainable, Long Term, Employee Housing Solution, or Not? Your Choice Oct. 15th.

I’m going to try and make this as clear as possible.

Land use planning for a sustainable future MUST consider how the service industry (all employees) are going to be housed.

To do that you first need to quantify how many employees you’re planning for.

Currently (2021 Canda Census Data “CSD”), Salt Spring has 6,340 people over 15 years of age receiving employment income. That equals about 1/2 the current population of the island.

Source “CSD” –

They are our teachers, nurses, doctors, lawyers, ferry workers, support staff, cashiers, fallers, firewood providers, chimney sweepers, appliance repair workers, garbage collectors, saw mill operators, counsellors, electricians, plumbers, carpenters, labourers, exterminators, financial planners, barristas, cooks, waiters/waitresses, engineers, accountants, bookkeepers, road maintenance workers, gas station attendants, concrete workers, caterers, auto repairmen, auto parts salesmen, boat repairs, bankers, insurance agents, ice cream vendors, couriers, florists, opticians, pharmacists, fitness centre workers, dry cleaners, camp ground operators, librarians, insurance agents, roofers, taxi drivers, jewellers, secretaries, crane operators, grocers, dentists, golf/tennis instructors, swim coaches, PARC employees, Islands Trust staff, CRD staff, Provincial Government staff, cleaners, farmers, excavators, truckers, arborists, home caregivers, B&B operators, hotel staff, carpet layers, accupuncturists, veternarians, float plane flight staff, appraisers, gardeners and landscapers, water deliverers, locksmiths, photographers, recyclers, architects, art gallery staff, police, ambulance, firefighters, bakers, computer repairers, dock builders, beauty salon workers, movers, bicycle repairers, blacksmiths, wine makers, glass installers, graphic designers, property managers, building maintenance workers, chiropracters, musicians, undertakers, painters, septic field installers, etc.

I challenge you to go through that list and tell me you did not interact today with one of those listed above.

Do you know how many of your fellow community members in the above categories could currently afford to buy a home on the island, based on their current incomes? Almost NONE.

To qualify for a modest home on the island now you need to be earning about $200,000/year.

Less than 10% of people on the island make $100,000 or more per year. (Source CSD)

Median income of an economic family is $97,000. (Source CSD)

So, let me get to my first point – Our service industry is slipping away before our eyes, with no plan for replacement.

And speaking of replacement, when a teacher/nurse/ferry worker/etc. retires, a new worker must move to the island…or commute….or the position will not be filled.

Anything sounding vaguely familiar yet?

Now, moving on to the housing issues, rental stock is plummeting, primarily due to two factors:

1. The purchase of rental investment homes by people who want to live here permanently.

2. The level of income which the new residents, buying homes over $1 million, means most do not want, or need, to be “saddled” with a tenant in a suite or a cottage. BC Tenancy rules and regulations now make it nearly impossible to ever evict someone from a secondary suite or cottage. Thus, when someone buys a $1.3 million property with a principal residence and a cottage, they do not want a tenant living in the cottage, nor do they need one.

So, lets think for a moment about how many dwelling units would be required to secure, long term, ownership housing, for our entire service industry.

A simple, generalized calculation is take the number of employees and divide by two. 6,340/2 = 3,170.

For the past 20 years I have said publicly, over and over again, we will need about 3,000 employee housing units IF we want to have anything approaching the character of our current community.

Was I clairvoyant in 2002? No, I just applied a simple, common sense approach to what our community consists of in the way of employees, knowing full well a day would come when we would become another Whistler, Nantucket Island, Martha’s Vineyard, Catalina Island or Vale, Colorado.

It wasn’t rocket science….all of those communities were already suffering from housing woes when I looked at them in 2002.

Okay, time is wasting so let me get to my solution on how to pull this community out of the fire. Follow with me now.

It is time to upzone ALL Rural and Rural Upland zoned properties to a maximum density of 1 per acre.

The following is an example of how this would help achieve the goal of 3,000 sustainable, employee ownership dwellings over time.

Example – A 20 acre, Rural Upland zoned property is listed for sale for $1.5 million. It is upzoned to 20 dwellings under the following provisions:

1. Only one dwelling on the property can be a “market dwelling.” The other 19 dwellings MUST be covenanted on title, for employee ownership housing, with a capped rate which is equal a maximum of the cost of construction plus 20%, and a future sale value not exceeding the initial purchase price plus the Consumer Price Index increase for the Capital Regional Area over time. That is the Whister Housing Authority model.

2. All dwellings will be strata titled, giving each a separate interest/title. This is exactly how any of the downtown townhouse projects are titled.

3. Each of the 20 units will have an area designated for the owners specific use. The way that is done is by designating areas as “Limited Common Property” (LCP) for the sole use of the individual owner.

4. If a not-for-profit organization bought the $1.5 million property, my suggestion would be to have the one market dwelling (the existing principal residence) desigated with 10 acres of the 20 as their LCP. That would allow the resale of that one market unit for, IMO, the same price as the original purchase – $1.5 million. That leaves the other 10 acres to have 19 homes/cottages/apartments/townhomes on it. That means the land cost for the project would be….virtually zero.

5. With virtually zero land cost, the cost of construction, ballparking at say at $300/sf for a 1,000 sf home would be $300,000 (plus 20% = $360,000). For a 600sf cottage or apartment, the cost would be $180,000 (plus 20% = $216,000.

6. Such a project would look something (though not exactly) like this….dwellings with designated LCP’s….they look like lots, but aren’t.

Do you know where I copy and pasted that image from? Page 30 of our Salt Spring Island Official Community Plan.

Clustering is nothing new. It has been encouraged since the OCP was adopted in 1999. However, it has never be visioned to be the solution for our employee housing problem.

And that, in a generalzed nutshell is how you solve the problem.

In closing, because I am sure many reading this are gasping, and/or spitting out their gin and tonics, as they wonder where all the water is going to come from, I will, in my next post address the water supply and septic question. Stay tuned…..

And please, copy and paste the web address, and share this article with everyone prior to October 15th and vote for the two people who you can believe and trust will actually solve the problem.

One Response to Do You Want a Sustainable, Long Term, Employee Housing Solution, or Not? Your Choice Oct. 15th.

  1. Pingback: Sustainability Starts at Home | islandstrust

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