Acquiring affordable, warm, safe housing on Salt Spring has never been easy, or at least not for many years.
But the lack of rental housing of any kind has become close to impossible for many.
In recent years, pressure has been brought to bear on government bodies to “do something” to make the situation more tenable, as more and more people leave the island and establish themselves in other communities where housing is less of a challenge.
Making it legal for property owners to rent out what are now called “seasonal cottages” was an obvious option for the Salt Spring Local Trust Committee to explore. A number of these dwellings already form part of the non-legal rental stock. Legalizing cottages on some 400 lots — in areas without known water quality or quantity problems plus a few other considerations — was the reasonable idea that resulted through proposed Bylaw 512.
What was not reasonable was a stipulation in the bylaw that cottages on those lots could not be used for bed and breakfast rental. If a full-time rental was allowed through Bylaw 512, the right to use the building for short-term rental was lost. While the logic behind such a concept is not ridiculous, it would absolutely not be fair to take away the option for B&B use on those properties.
It is unlikely that a large number of accommodation units will result from the bylaw — only a dozen cottage owners who responded to a survey said they would rent out or build a new cottage for rentals if it became legal — but even if a few are added to the mix, that will at least make the process worthwhile.
Throwing the bylaw out completely would be a major waste of resources and do nothing to improve housing stock. On the other hand, if wrapped up on schedule, cottage rentals could be legalized within just a few months.
The public hearing is part of the legislative process, but does not mean the end of that process. Changes to the bylaw can still be made before third reading, based on the feedback received.
With opinion overwhelmingly against the prohibition of B&Bs in the cottages zone but in favour of opening up rental stock in general, the path forward should be clear: the LTC should rescind the B&B stipulation but approve the bylaw as soon as possible.