With an increasing shortage of affordable housing for our workforce, Salt Spring Island’s housing crisis is worsening and impacting every aspect of our community – our seniors, businesses, hospital and schools. To find a path forward to a more resilient, ecologically sustainable community, we published Homes for Islanders: An Integrated Housing Solutions Framework for Salt Spring Island which identifies five strategies for our addressing our immediate housing problems. Find out more here and support our work to create a community-led conversation about solutions.
Although Salt Spring Island is widely known as an idyllic place to spend a weekend in a cozy cabin, a yurt in the forest, or a tiny home on an agricultural property, these and other types of accessory dwelling units (ADUs) are mostly prohibited as long-term residences. The well-documented benefits of ADUs as a private-sector housing solution, coupled with the common knowledge that many islanders live full-time in illegal ADUs, provides a strong case for legalizing and guiding this type of rural infill housing.
Benefits of ADUs:
Concerns about ADUs can be addressed:
Actions recommended by Salt Spring Solutions:
Salt Spring Island requires a housing strategy and an entity that is resourced and clearly designated as responsible for overseeing a focused and coordinated interagency approach for housing. This is needed to overcome the substantial challenges of our siloed governance and long tradition of creating housing plans that are not implemented, and to direct a solution to the complex servicing issues in Ganges Village.
The Salt Spring Island community needs better ways to learn about and discuss important, complex, and controversial issues. History demonstrates that our local government processes fall short in facilitating informed, inclusive, and constructive community engagement. At worst, this can create barriers to making progress on many important issues, including housing. It is imperative that we find ways to redirect, reform, or supplement the current public process to improve our comity’s capacity to problem-solve together.
Unchecked residential sprawl is changing Salt Spring Island from a rural community characterized by farms, forest, homesteads, village nodes, and diverse households into a subdivided patchwork of private, affluent estates. Private residential development typically maximizes private views and interests without equal consideration of natural systems or broader community needs, including attainable housing. Instead of continuing to accept the status quo as an entitlement, Salt Spring Island must limit this kind of growth on undeveloped land and incentivize investment that protects nature space, water resources, and farmland, and allows households of varying incomes to live across the island.
There are many reasons why more housing and higher-density, mixed-use development on Salt Spring Island should be focused near the social and economic heart of our community, Ganges Village. There are also a multitude of challenges to implementing what initially appears as a common-sense solution. Nonetheless, the eventual benefits of having a walkable, socially inclusive and economically vital village should compel local government agencies to prioritize this work as an intergovernmental collaboration and address the challenges proactively.