People living in rental units deemed “unlawful” by the Islands Trust will no longer be subject to bylaw enforcement on Salt Spring Island.
The island’s three-member local Trust committee (LTC) followed the lead of a housing task force set up to deal with an ongoing and deepening housing crisis, choosing to adopt all recommendations made by Trust staff at a Nov. 9 meeting.
The Islands Trust will not be enforcing their housing bylaws for any “commercial accommodation, such as cabins, hotels, guest houses and motels” providing long-term residency. Bylaw enforcement will also be deferred for “all unlawful dwellings” used for residential purposes, except in the case of specific concerns. If bylaw officers were to attend it would be for health and safety, issues with sewage, contamination of wells or drinking water, being in environmentally sensitive areas or in the case of non-permitted campgrounds.
Wishing to communicate the urgency of the situation, trustee Laura Patrick added wording to the motion on deferring bylaw enforcement for “unlawful dwellings,” which read that the deferral will be until “there are safe, secure, appropriate housing options that are affordable for all demographics and household types in perpetuity.” The Housing Action Program Task Force had asked for additional wording to be added addressing the need for bylaw enforcement to be deferred until “sustainable housing solutions” are implemented.
It was standing room only at the Hart Bradley Hall Tuesday afternoon, and these interim changes meant to help alleviate Salt Spring’s housing crunch were welcomed with a round of applause. Members of the Salt Spring Solutions group, members of the task force and residents spoke in support of the changes at a town hall section of the meeting.
“If you really look behind the scenes and look into who is the biggest provider of affordable housing on Salt Spring, the very unofficial answer will be . . . unlawful dwellings and that’s maybe not something people like to hear or that is showing up in any reports,” said Freyja Skye. “A lot of these unlawful housing units are perfectly safe and low impact, ecologically sound.”
The committee also passed staff recommendations that serve to expedite the building of affordable housing on Salt Spring, including asking for amendments to Trust-wide policies that support “expedited rezoning applications for affordable housing.”
Trustees are now also expecting to get reports back from Islands Trust staff about how they might amend bylaws to allow “accessory dwelling units” in all zones. This would include cottages, secondary suites in homes and buildings such as garages and the like, confirmed regional planning manager Stefan Cermak.
For a fulsome report from the Nov. 9 meeting, see the Nov. 17 edition of the Driftwood.