The symbolic ground breaking at the Salt Spring Commons site is a reason to feel optimistic about housing on the island.
A provincial government contribution of $2.4 million from its Community Housing Fund ensured the 24-unit complex, on land owned by Salt Spring Island Community Services, could finally proceed.
Salt Spring Commons has had a lower profile than some other prospective affordable housing projects on our island. But building housing on that property was envisioned since the mid-1990s, so it’s not as if it sprung into being without facing some obstacles over the years.
While Salt Spring Island ultimately needs far more than 24 affordable rental units for families, the Commons is a good start. The Ministry of Housing estimates rents will run between $570 and $1,475 for the two and three-bedroom units, and that the complex will serve families with a maximum income of $60,000 per year, as well as low-income families.
Also on the affordable housing front is the Salt Spring Local Trust Committee’s suggestion through proposed Bylaw 512 that seasonal cottages be allowed for year-round use on some island properties. The list of eligible properties is fairly restrictive, and does not include any within the North Salt Spring Waterworks District, for example, where density increases are not currently allowed.
The Trust is encouraging people to weigh in on the topic and this Friday, July 26 is the deadline to complete the online Affordable Rental Housing Cottages Survey.
While Bylaw 512 might result in a few additional rental units being constructed or existing seasonal cottages opened for year-round rental, it seems unlikely that many property owners with means will jump at the opportunity to provide affordable housing if it becomes legal to do so. Island Health has also now raised a red flag with the Trust about how property owners will meet Drinking Water Protection Act requirements if the bylaw is passed.
More than anything, Salt Spring needs to have the new Croftonbrook complex completed, and for other in-the-works public and private developments to progress with the help of cooperative government bodies and community support in general.