It’s not surprising that Lions Hall was filled on Sunday afternoon as a new affordable housing development vision was shared with the community.
Fernando and Tami dos Santos own 10.5 acres of land on Drake Road. They want to see it used for “owner-occupied” worker housing and are prepared to forego a profit in developing it for that purpose. The dos Santos’ generosity is laudable and speaks to the severity of the affordable housing crisis on Salt Spring, as does the fact that 160 people came to Sunday’s meeting.
As a couple who are involved with the community and have lived on the island for some time, they have seen the impacts of an eroding housing stock. Finding appropriate and affordable housing on Salt Spring has not been easy for decades, but anecdotally it seems the lack of choice has never been so acute as it is right now.
Those with secure housing on the island can delude themselves that the issue is not their problem. But working people, those with history in a place and those with families are at the heart of every community. This week’s Driftwood story about a sonographer hired from Ontario for Lady Minto Hospital being unable to start work due to lack of housing is just one of countless others out there. Bit by bit we are losing our heart.
Some people attending the Dragonfly Commons meeting criticized the limited scope of the project, since it is not designed to accommodate low-income renters, for example. But other housing projects with a rental focus are in the works on the island, which is also heartening.
The Dragonfly Commons vision is similar to one raised by Norton Road property owners several years ago. Way back in 2003, the Elliott family proposed helping young families get into the housing market with 26 affordable, smaller homes built on their seven-acre parcel of land. Unfortunately, after staggering through the Salt Spring Local Trust Committee rezoning process, the project was stalled at third reading in 2008.
We sincerely hope that Dragonfly Commons does not suffer a similar fate.
It’s way past time for affordable housing visions to be translated into doors and windows that open for working people on Salt Spring.