By AINA YASUÉ
SALT SPRING SOLUTIONS
What happens when your island’s essential workers can’t find a place to live? Salt Spring is about to find out.
For Tammy Desjardins and her family of four, it’s crunch time to find a new home. Tammy, a BC Ferries employee, is recovering from an injury. Her partner is a marine engineer.
In the few places they have lived over their four years on Salt Spring Island, their current home has been the best. Their past housing experiences include a winter in a trailer that wasn’t properly sealed, and living in a communal home where the sewer backed into the bath whenever they flushed the toilet, one of the walls was sinking, and where her daughter became ill due to mold in her bedroom. They stayed because “we simply couldn’t find anywhere else,” says Tammy. Ever since finding their current house 18 months ago they have been very grateful to live in a functional and well-maintained home.
Earlier this year the owners of their rental property surprised Tammy by announcing they are retiring to the island a year earlier than previously planned. Now she must find a new place to live by Aug. 31. For nearly five months they have looked in the paper, networked, placed ads on social media, contacted low-income housing services and real estate companies. Even with early notice, she explains how hard it is to find a rental home on the island where, Tammy says, “there are no vacancies for five months, and it’s one house for 60 applicants.” She also observes that the prices have risen significantly in her time on the island. Says Tammy, “I don’t know what reasonable is in this market. It’s gone crazy.”
Faced with the distinct possibility that she won’t secure a rental home on the island in time, Tammy may be forced to return to work before her injury is completely healed, because her “back-to-work period” must be from the same terminal she worked out of before her injury occurred, which is Long Harbour. Her shift starts at 5:30 am, which makes commuting to work from off-island an impossibility. You can hear the frustration in her voice when she says, “They want people to work on the island but have no housing for the workers. It’s self-defeating.”
Tammy’s family is still hoping to find a two or three bedroom detached house for rent, but at this point they are willing to consider all options. After doing everything they can to find a home for their fast-approaching deadline, they are starting to feel the stress. “We have good references; we just need somewhere to physically put our bodies.”
The above piece is the third 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.