By LAURA PATRICK
When I ran for Islands Trust in 2018, I said I would work to find solutions for the housing crisis. We risk losing organizations and businesses that are integral to our island life because their workers are struggling to find secure housing.
I said that we should make immediate amendments to the land use bylaw to remove unacceptable encumbrances to farmworker housing, secondary suites and cottages. Unfortunately, because of amendments to the Agriculture Land Commission, solutions to farmworker housing are now more difficult.
I said we should direct staff to review the many reports, surveys and studies already completed that identify affordable housing innovation and best practices. This is an important part of the OCP update project that is underway.
I also said we should hold community forums to better understand housing needs, but I have heard loud and clear that we already know enough about this topic, and to just get to work.
Finally, I said we should strongly advocate to senior levels of government for a unique housing strategy with dedicated funding. While we may not have succeeded yet, I can assure you that your three island elected officials, Peter Grove, Gary Holman and myself, along with our MLA Adam Olsen, have advocated to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, and BC Housing for solutions and funding.
You also might not be aware of the recent 11th-hour funding crises for both the Croftonbrook and Salt Spring Commons projects. Resolutions to these crises came about through the hard work of the project staff, our Islands Trust staff and your elected officials working with BC Housing.
Do you know why the Municipal Affairs and Housing Ministry recently reversed its position on funding for shelters and support? It’s because every organization and individual who cares for and supports our island’s growing population of homeless, along with all of your elected officials, collectively asked for support for a year-round shelter. We thank MAHM Minister Selena Robinson for listening to us and for providing this much-needed support. Our island shelter can now remain open all year. Our voices are heard when we work together.
People like to pick and choose from the “Object Statement” in the Islands Trust Act to describe what they believe the Islands Trust is all about. I often hear the phrase “preserve and protect” in reference only to the environment. The Object Statement must be read and understood in its entirety. I believe it aims to strike a balance between conservation and development, and it recognizes that this can only be accomplished through cooperation with others. The only way the Islands Trust can effectively safeguard our island against a changing climate and development pressure is to involve others, including the local community and Indigenous peoples, in all of our work.
A critical message from a recent UN-backed report about the impacts of human activity states that “nature fares better when the people most connected to that nature — those living within it — are supported as the primary stewards.” “When people benefit from biodiversity they protect it.” Doreen Robinson, a wildlife expert at UN Environment, presented this message and she is correct.