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Local group issues prescription for housing solutions on Salt Spring Island

April 17, 2023 — For immediate release — A core reason that solving the housing crisis on Salt Spring Island has been such a tough nut to crack is because of the fragmented nature of the island’s governance and lack of coordination and collaboration between government organizations, says local community group Salt Spring Solutions.

The non-profit group has spent the past year researching and creating a framework for local housing solutions that, for the first time, integrates into one document the responsibilities of the various local government bodies that have a role to play in housing.

“We’ve been involved in one way or another in the housing conversation on Salt Spring for five years now,” says group co-founder and board member Elizabeth FitzZaland, “and what we came to realize is that organizations like the Islands Trust and the Capital Regional District were talking about housing, but not necessarily to or with each other or in reference to previous work within their own organizations. Countless reports have been written on housing, however none of them has sufficiently stepped out of their organizational silos to consider the big picture, or to address the need for inter-agency cooperation and problem-solving on housing.” And that, says the group, is how institutional paralysis has set in.

According to the report the group is, “…alarmed by the critical lack of housing options in our community for working class and vulnerable residents. The unhindered development of larger resource-intensive single-family homes is having multiple adverse impacts on our island. Deforestation and soil erosion, loss of green space and wildlife corridors, stressed freshwater resources, increased vehicle trips and greenhouse gas emissions, the prevalence of unregulated housing, and the destabilizing of our island economy and social fabric are some of the existing impacts we anticipate will worsen without proactive, coordinated intervention and persistent leadership on housing.”

The group’s report, entitled Homes for Islanders — An Integrated Framework for Housing Solutions on Salt Spring Island provides five key strategies for making a dent in the island’s housing crisis. They are:

  1. Coordinated and Properly Resourced Local Approach to Housing
  2. Effective Public Education, Engagement, and Dialogue on Housing
  3. Preservation of Rural Areas and Nature Space through Clustered Housing
  4. Readying Ganges Village for More Housing
  5. Accessory Dwellings for Housing, in the Right Places

“Our framework pulls together and articulates the various threads of responsibility, and advocates for housing solutions that have been implemented with success in other rural communities”, says FitzZaland. “These are the actions we can focus on right now and work on collaboratively to change things for the better. We’re inviting elected officials and staff from all of the relevant organizations to roll up their sleeves and talk together with us about these key strategies.”

The group says their framework begins to address the environmental, economic, and social issues integral to housing solutions by:

  • Being achievable within the existing local, regional, and provincial regulatory context
  • Supporting smaller scale housing types that are known to have less adverse impacts on the natural environment than typical single-family development
  • Supporting efficient use of land, water services and infrastructure
  • Not requiring large-scale land clearing of existing forests or harm to sensitive ecosystems
  • Being financially viable to develop and operate
  • Improving the availability and/or affordability of long-term housing options for a range of household types (single person, couples, families with children, etc.) and incomes
  • Being compatible with and/or enhancing island community characteristics, such as self-sufficiency, interdependence, neighbourliness, and low impact living
  • Supporting increased uptake of transit and/or active transportation

“We’re providing recommendations that increase long-term housing options through a combination of local strategic actions. Instead of being an exhaustive list of all possible solutions, we have focused on areas where local leadership is necessary and possible,” says the report.

Homes for Islanders — An Integrated Framework for Housing Solutions on Salt Spring Island is available on the group’s web site at www.saltspringsolutions.com

Salt Spring Solutions envisions a community that works across areas of interest and issue-based divisions to identify key problems that require attention, and to open up closed or obscure decision-making processes. We envision a resilient Salt Spring Island community that works together to equitably care for the ecology and the community as one. Our goal is to bring more people power into our island’s decision-making processes, to help Salt Spring evolve into a community that can work effectively together on solving complex issues and make the sometimes-difficult decisions on how to improve lives and protect our island ecology.

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