Editorial: Opening the gate for affordable housing

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When it comes to matters like affordable housing, the Islands Trust is really only a “gatekeeper.”

At least that’s how Salt Spring trustee George Grams explained the situation at Thursday’s Trust committee meeting when talking about a rezoning bylaw needed to allow Island Women Against Violence’s Croftonbrook expansion. The Trust can’t be proactive and create housing developments, he said. They can only halt or minimize the impact of someone else’s project, or open the gate for others to make housing happen.

Rezoning Croftonbrook property will allow construction of 34 units of affordable housing adjacent to the existing 20-unit affordable housing complex. A further 20 units can already be built under existing zoning.

Construction will be noisy and disruptive for the neighbourhood, and traffic will no doubt increase on Corbett Road. Adding up to 54 units and 78 individuals to that area will change it forever. But no location is ideal for any development. As envisioned by the Salt Spring Official Community Plan, though, the north Ganges area, close to other multi-family complexes and services, is the right place for more dense and affordable developments.

Not surprisingly, the question of an adequate supply of water has arisen. While IWAV has been assured on several fronts that the quality and quantity is what is needed for 54 new units, the form of that assurance was not available in an expected format from Island Health by last Thursday. Croftonbrook project is in uncharted waters when it comes to the provision of water, relying on a mix of groundwater and rainwater sources.

If trustees Grams and Peter Grove did not support in principle the Croftonbrook expansion, they could have effectively closed the gate and killed it by not giving proposed Bylaw 507 second reading last week because of wording around the water issue. Instead, they wisely determined that they could eventually adopt the rezoning bylaw as long as they were satisfied that the project had adequate water, with evidence coming from BC Housing and other funders and government agencies.

Kudos go to the Salt Spring LTC for at least “opening the gate” to allow the next steps to be taken for this much-needed project.

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