Editorial: Housing crisis reaches boiling point

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No topic has been talked about more on Salt Spring in recent months than the lack of rental housing on the island.

It’s not just that housing is unaffordable; it’s non-existent. The availability of rental homes and suites has shrunk as a rejuvenated real estate market made it possible for long-rented residences to be sold. The ease of renting units through the Airbnb platform is also considered a new factor.

Regardless of the reasons, it’s not just a problem for one family or even 100 families. The problem belongs to all of us.

Housing is not the only thing in short supply on Salt Spring. Workers are also a scarce commodity, largely because people cannot find a place to live. That reduces all the services that residents and island visitors receive, and the viability of island-based businesses.

There’s also the simple compassion factor. A lack of secure housing has hugely detrimental impacts on people’s mental and physical health.

Once a few in-the-works Salt Spring housing projects are completed, some of the pressure should be alleviated. But it seems unlikely those projects will be able to make any significant difference for about two years.

A new group called Islanders for Housing Action has come up with a list of initiatives the Salt Spring Local Trust Committee could take to slow the migration of working-age individuals off the island.  Examples are suspending bylaw enforcement actions that would reduce the “alternative, non-conforming, long-term stable” stock of residences and fast-tracking the plan to legalize long-term use of seasonal cottages. They are encouraging people affected by the housing crisis and allies to express their needs and opinions at the April 19 LTC meeting at Lions Hall at noon.

The Salt Spring Community Alliance is working on housing solutions, and will discuss the issue at its meeting on Monday night. The United Church is hosting two discussions on shared accommodation options this Thursday evening and on Friday afternoon.

The task at hand is both huge and urgent. No doors to possible solutions should be closed.

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