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You did it! Anti-housing motions defeated at Trust Council

THANK YOU to the 106 of you who took the time to write a letter to the trust, and the other 100 or so who attended various Trust public meetings in the past two weeks.

Due to the overwhelmingly clear message from the community, the anti-housing and anti-community motions put forward to the Trust Council last week were both defeated. Housing remains on the priority list and healthy communities remain in the Trust’s mandate!

The last few weeks were a whirlwind. When we first heard about the Trustee from Pender’s sneaky motion to remove affordable housing from the priority list of the Trust, it was hard to believe. Buried deep inside a 1,000 page document published only two days before a public meeting, and not mentioned at all in their recent public process, here was a motion that aimed to undo all the recent momentum on housing.

How the Trust’s meek efforts to just now start to work on affordable housing solutions could have already created a backlash is incredible!

After virtually ignoring the problem for 20 years, the Trust hasn’t actually done much, other than approving a few non-profit projects already in the works and some small pilot projects on suites and cottages that have (as we predicted) proven ineffective. Meanwhile more and more new-build mansions are approved, with almost no energy, water, or forest protection restrictions.

So when we learned this Trustee was going even further, with a second motion attempting to remove the entire concept of “healthy island communities” from the Trust’s interpretation of its  mandate, we needed to organize a response from the community.

March 9 2021 photo of Trust Chair during a public zoom meeting. The motion proposed might have seen the Trust just roll up that third flag, in order to focus only on the environment.

Just as some were questioning whether this was really happening or not, allies of the plan published a prominent opinion article in the Times Colonist newspaper. Titled “Battle for future of Gulf Islands coming to a head”, the Trustee pushing the motion said housing was not only an inappropriate priority for the Trust, but “for Council to become more involved in this issue is, in my opinion, driven by our emotional response to it.”

I’m sure the hundreds of working and middle class families forced to leave or struggling to stay where they have chosen to build a life will have an emotion of their own when they hear that.

You might call this Gaslighting. It sure smells a lot like pull up the drawbridge elitism.

No, the housing crisis is not emotional, it’s ruining people’s lives, and anyone who in the 21st century decides balancing community and environmental concerns at the same time is “too hard” probably needs to retire. It’s 2021 folks and we don’t leave people out of environmental solutions anymore, especially those hardest hit by the many interlocking crises of our times.

The new LTC Housing Action Project on the table now is an effort to catch up, to engage the community in the pros and cons of different integrated solutions for solving many of our 21st century challenges at once, and identify meaningful actions to be taken in the short and long term. This kind of leadership needs to be supported, not squelched.

So thank you for your letters and for attending the public meetings if you did, it made a real difference!

In the end, you just reminded our hard working but pretty privileged Trustees that housing and inequality, climate and the environment are deeply linked. Of course we’re all here to protect this special place. But if we want any diversity at all in this community in 10 years time we had better start figuring out how non-wealthy people can stay here also.

Jason Mogus and Rhonan Heitzmann

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