When does a “crisis” demand an immediate response?
More than three years ago, the following was written by Salt Spring Solutions, a community group created to address the acute housing shortage: “Our island is experiencing a severe housing crisis like we have never seen before, and it is rapidly getting worse. Working people are sleeping in cars, and in substandard shelter without running water. Ferries from Crofton are already overloaded with commuters from Vancouver Island. There are literally no vacancies. All renters are vulnerable to losing their home and not being able to find another one. This is affecting families, workers, seniors, artists, farmers, and businesses alike. The health of our community is seriously at risk.”
It’s hard to imagine the situation could have worsened since those words were written, but by all accounts that is the case.
And that is true despite the fact that between the Croftonbrook expansion and the Salt Spring Commons development, a total of 78 units of affordable housing have already opened or will within the next year. That’s great news, but they only fill a portion of the 300 units that the 2020 Salt Spring Island Housing Needs Assessment report from the Capital Regional District said were needed at that time, with a further 300 projected to be required by 2025.
A family representing one of those needed units is featured in this week’s Finding Home series piece provided to the Driftwood by Salt Spring Solutions. This time it’s a BC Ferries family who has been unable to find a rental home for the past five months.
A Housing Action Program Task Force was recently created by the LTC as a response to the housing crisis, but whether any substantive actions arise from that process remains to be seen. So far the bureaucratic and resource constraints don’t bode well for tangible results, and certainly not in time to help people who need housing now. All eyes are on the Islands Trust and its Housing Action Program Task Force process to come up with a plan to address this long-simmering crisis and to follow through with bylaw amendments and lobbying efforts needed for real change.
Some people will say “The housing shortage is being felt everywhere” as they retire to their comfortable homes. But with everyone on this island affected by the lack of workers and the loss of friends and family, which is undeniably attributable to the housing crisis, apathy is unaffordable.