The topic of temporary housing for Seabreeze Inne residents who will be displaced by the motel’s impending purchase made its way to the Capital Region Housing Corporation Board last week.
Salt Spring’s Capital Regional District director Gary Holman told an ASK Salt Spring session on Friday that he brought a motion to that board on Dec. 8 for temporary housing to be installed on CRD-owned property on Drake Road, although the details are not for public consumption yet.
“The motion for staff to do the due diligence and make the arrangements for temporary housing was made public — it will be in the minutes — but the discussion of that was in camera,” he said.
Holman said what will happen to some 18 individuals living at the inne has been “top of mind” in the community since the Lady Minto Hospital Foundation (LMHF) agreement to purchase the property for renovation into hospital staff apartments was made public. Even though the foundation has moved an original “eviction date” of Dec. 31 to Feb. 15, the pressure is still on to find alternate accommodation.
A number of people were housed at the motel during the pandemic period with financial assistance from BC Housing and facilitated by Salt Spring Island Community Services (SSICS), which has housing as part of its mandate. SSICS had hoped to buy the property through a generous donor or have BC Housing acquire it, said Holman. He said LMHF stepped up with an offer only after it was known that the SSICS/BC Housing proposal was dead.
On the positive side, he said, Fields department store management has offered use of some cottages it had barged to the island several months ago. But finding a suitable piece of land where the cottages can be placed is the challenge, which is why Drake Road is being eyed.
ASK Salt Spring attendee Ron Cooke suggested a property owned by the Parks and Recreation Commission via the CRD, such as lands on Kanaka Drive near the high school and Rainbow Road pool, might be an appropriate spot.
“The fact those properties are owned by Salt Spring people and we have a crisis and they are there, it seems like a bit of a no-brainer to me that there’s an answer to a problem,” said Cooke.
Holman said he would explore those options, while noting that one of the two Kanaka lots currently houses the PARC maintenance facility, but first wants to see if temporary use of Drake Road could become the solution.
Cooke also raised the Salt Spring Island Land Bank Society property known as Brackett Springs on Rainbow Road as a possibility for housing. However, Holman said that and two other land bank properties are being foreclosed on by Vancity credit union and the outcome may not be known anytime soon.
While acknowledging the stressful situation created by the LMHF’s planned purchase of the Seabreeze Inne, he stressed that the motel would have soon been lost to the community as a housing asset because it was for sale as commercial accommodation.
Cherie Geauvreau of the Copper Kettle Community Partnership and the Wagon Wheel Housing Society later told the Driftwood that everyone involved in housing is trying hard to find a solution for the Seabreeze tenants.
“We’re reaching out to the community because that’s the only thing we can do right now,” she said.
Looking to the future, Holman confirmed that BC Housing has committed to a fully funded affordable housing project on the CRD’s Drake Road property, but further information about that is also not publicly available. BC Housing will make announcements when it is ready to do so, he said.
“I’m not at liberty to say any more than that because I don’t have permission from BC Housing,” he said, adding that any housing project proponent should be in charge of their own information sharing.
Making the case that some movement is occurring on the housing front, Holman pointed out that Salt Spring has seven properties currently slated for some kind of mainly affordable housing, and that lobbying had resulted in BC Housing providing funding for increased shelter services through SSICS in the past couple of years.
Use of the province’s Speculation and Vacancy Tax was raised by an ASK Salt Spring attendee. Holman confirmed that discussions have been held between Salt Spring’s locally elected officials, MLA Adam Olsen and David Eby, B.C.’s attorney general and housing minister, about possibly having the tax applied to the Gulf Islands.
It’s an action that Salt Spring Island Economic Sustainability Commission members would like to see taken to help ease the housing crisis. Commission chair Francine Carlin said her group recently passed a motion to press the CRD Board to have the tax implemented in its electoral areas. It already applies to CRD municipalities, as well as in Metro Vancouver municipalities, and Abbotsford, Mission, Chilliwack, Kelowna, West Kelowna, Nanaimo and Lantzville.
“Data on the impacts of the speculation and vacancy tax (SVT) indicates that it is having the intended impact,” states a summary paper written by Holman on the subject. “It is freeing up empty homes for housing and is generating revenue for affordable housing (primarily from foreign owners or Canadians living outside B.C.) in the overall region, but not in the specific communities in which the tax is applied.”
ASK Salt Spring, which sees elected officials and community leaders share information with and take questions from the public every Friday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. — currently in the library program room — is taking a break until Jan. 7, 2022, when MLA Adam Olsen will be the guest.