By AINA YASUÉ
Salt Spring Solutions
For Aly Coy, Salt Spring Island was a place of beginnings.
Here, she started her soap company, Barefoot Daughter, a local favourite. She met her partner, and gave birth to her now 10-month-old child.
Recalling her original reasons for leaving the city to come to Salt Spring, Aly says, “I thought it was the most supportive place to start a business and have a family.”
This summer they made the sadly pragmatic decision to say goodbye to the island after seven years of trying to find a stable and secure home.
For Aly and her partner, Salt Spring’s rental housing choices have run the gamut from shacks, boats, yurts and cabins, to RVs, tents, vans and even a converted chicken coop. During her seven years living in rental housing here, she has only had heated plumbing for half of one of those years. While managing to make and sell quality soaps, she was melting snow on her woodstove in winter to have hot water for bathing. Aly specifically recalls hardship during the COVID lockdown, as gyms and community spaces were closing, having nowhere to shower.
While dealing with the ongoing issues around insecure housing, Aly also struggled to find a studio space that offered the basics, such as heating. She remembers the usual banter amongst vendors at the Saturday market slowly but inevitably became centred on housing over recent years.
“The housing issue is so distracting that you can’t focus on your business,” she notes.
Aly was involved in local community groups, including Transition Salt Spring Enterprise Co-op, the Salt Spring Chamber of Commerce, the Painters Guild and writing circles. While watching their friends move off island or hold back from starting a family, knowing they’d have to move eventually, Aly and her partner decided to start over again in a new community.
She speaks fondly of her friends; the aunties and uncles she wishes her daughter had around to babysit, saying, “I’ll miss the community that I built and worked really hard to nurture.”
For the same price they paid for shockingly inadequate rental housing per year, they are now paying a mortgage on their own two-bedroom house on the east coast.
“We have a mud room, our own laundry, hot water and space for my daughter to learn to crawl,” she says. “When you don’t have those things for so long, this feels like luxury.”
The above piece is the fourth in a series of profiles of islanders who are impacted by the lack of affordable housing, compiled and written by Aina Yasué of the Salt Spring Solutions community group.