Viewpoint: Housing dialogue wide open

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By LAURA PATRICK

I would like to address some statements made in the Feb. 10 editorial on housing and the “LTC Support Sought to Keep Rental Unit” article.

The recently approved Housing Action Program is not, as described in the editorial, just “another study.” This program grew out of the recommendations of the Housing Working Group, which was tasked by the Islands Trust’s Salt Spring Local Trust Committee (LTC) to provide advice on the development and implementation of a Salt Spring housing planning project. The Housing Action Program is focused on actions that are within the responsibilities of the LTC, which are given to it through the Local Government Act to direct the location, density and form of all housing, and to offer land use incentives for the development of housing on private, non-profit and public lands. Zoning, subdivision and other land use bylaws are powerful and foundational tools that our community can use proactively to achieve a diverse and sustainable supply of housing.  

Addressing the housing challenges that took decades to emerge will not be easy or quick, but we can and will prioritize actions on solutions that address urgent housing needs. All of our decisions should be fair and well-balanced, and rooted in solid environmental, economic and social equity principles and policies. The best solutions to any of our challenges are those which simultaneously address multiple issues confronting our island — such as forest health, biodiversity, watersheds and water supply, the climate emergency, land use, small business health, food security and the community spirit and resiliency of our society.  

As we work toward an intelligent and comprehensive resolution to Salt Spring’s housing crisis, we will make sure that there is regular and open dialogue with the community, including First Nations. We know that finding agreement might be difficult, but with respectful, considered dialogue we CAN and MUST find common values and reach an understanding.  

People can find more information about this new program on the Islands Trust’s Salt Spring webpage, or speak with a trustee. Applications are now being accepted to become a member of a housing task force.

When it comes to zoning, Salt Spring Island is no different than other communities in British Columbia. Zoning maps are contained in the Salt Spring Official Community Plan and the regulations for each zone are included in the land use bylaws. Zoning is intended to accomplish things such as: separate incompatible land uses; protect the value and enjoyment of surrounding properties; and, provide for orderly development. 

Anyone considering buying property on Salt Spring should take the time to understand the zoning designation and determine if the current land use on the property is in compliance with land use bylaws, or if their intended use is compatible. Anyone can apply to rezone, but it is an onerous, regulated process and the outcome is not certain. 

The Driftwood is correct that the LTC will be receiving a staff report in regard to a rezoning application at its Feb. 16 meeting. Islands Trust staff prepare reports containing analysis and recommendations, but it is the trustees who make the political decisions taking all relevant concerns, including those of the applicant, into account. 

The writer is a member of the Salt Spring Local Trust Committee.

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