Solving something as challenging as the affordable housing crisis on an island with, let’s just say a “unique” form of governance, is pretty complicated. You quickly get into boring stuff like overlapping or underlapping jurisdictions, bylaws, Official Community Plans, legal interpretations, and confusing jargon. Added to the challenge is the strong community concern about how we respond to the climate emergency, and the perception by some that housing people is impossible to do without further harming our natural environment.
Are these two issues irreconcilable?
We recently presented a list of housing actions that the Islands Trust can take to ease the housing crisis. The full list is here. A summary of the “big 5” housing solutions we want to see happen are:
- Rainwater harvesting
- Homes in town
- Protecting our forests
- Legalizing cottages and suites
And this gets us to why we believe housing solutions are also solutions to the climate crisis. The way Salt Spring does development now – with hundreds of new high resource use mansions being built far from town while every month sees fewer rentals on the market – is NOT preserving and protecting. Nor is it sustainable. Or fair.
Our housing solutions would instead see smaller and existing dwellings used for housing, having much less environmental impact than large new homes. We can create guidelines that save water and energy across our entire housing stock. Clusters of smaller, low-impact homes allowed in exchange for a commitment to conservation and permaculture practices will use less resources than conventional homes and be a great fit with the culture and history of our island.
We can better preserve our forests by transferring the density of lots with important biodiversity features to the Ganges village core. More homes in town means fewer GHG’s for transportation. And with more homes available we can stop the high carbon (among other problems) off-island commuting from hundreds of working people, which is increasing rapidly every year the housing crisis continues.
There is no zero sum game between housing people and protecting our precious island from environmental harm. They are one and the same issue, and smart, sustainable planning in alignment with our community’s values leads to creative solutions that help us all.
If you’re fired up by what’s possible we hope to see you at our Rally for Housing Solutions, on Friday November 22 at 9 AM at the Islands Trust!
Please bring a friend!