A lack of workforce housing may not be unique to Salt Spring but that doesn’t mean we should stop trying to solve the problem.
The demographics of our community have clearly become imbalanced, with not enough people working on the island to provide the services a community of 11,000 or 12,000 needs. This is something that is everyone’s problem, even if they don’t know it yet.
Some people might be delighted to see restaurants and stores close, and families leave the island because they cannot find a place to live. Perhaps they don’t need the services of a mechanic, house cleaner, handyman, ferry worker, teacher or a nurse at Lady Minto Hospital, but at some point they will.
No one has the “right” to live on supposedly idyllic Salt Spring or any other Gulf Island, but many people have lived here and contributed in one way or another, and they are still needed in order to make the community function as well as it can. Not only that, the island is their home and they are part of our community in multifaceted ways.
Thankfully, the Salt Spring Local Trust Committee last week accepted the recommendations of its Housing Action Program Task Force to help create some housing for the island’s dwindling workforce in the immediate, short-term and long-term future. While one of those recommendations — to hold off on bylaw enforcement involving illegal dwellings unless health and safety issues arise or they are in environmentally sensitive areas — is certainly controversial, it is one of the few actions that can be taken to have an immediate impact.
Fears that multiple properties will fill with shipping containers packed with newly arrived residents are simply not realistic. Not many property owners responded to the opportunity when secondary suites were legalized in some areas a few years ago. Sharing any part of one’s property is not the first choice of the vast majority of people.
The changes proposed by the LTC will perhaps inspire some new housing units to be created, but will also importantly give a sense of security to people currently living in illegal situations.
Too many islanders are forced to live in circumstances that would never be acceptable to the securely housed. Compassion and common sense demand that we do what we can to make their lives better.
I can’t think of a single point in this editorial that I don’t agree with. Thank you! Linda James