Affordable Housing on Gabriola

Angela Pounds

Submitted Article

Tuesday, December 5 2017

Recently I was lucky enough to attend the BC non-profit housing association (BCNPHA) conference. A wealth of information was provided, as well as some insight into shifting attitudes from government. I have attended this conference in the past but this is the first time there has been hope in the sector that big changes are gong to happen, Political and cultural currents are changing. There is renewed energy to focus on housing as a crucial part of addressing poverty, addictions, loneliness, and physical health. 

Province wide there is a need for safe affordable housing, this is not a unique problem to Gabriola. Increasingly at community event I hear this need brought up over and over, there has been a cultural shift in the way housing is being discussed, no only on our island but nationally- the federal government just released a national housing strategy. There is a recognition that housing is a key social determinant of health and directly impacts all other aspects of a person’s life. As a community research has been conducted to highlight the need, housing strategies have been developed and then updated when they get too old, survey after survey has been conducted, and is being conducted currently by the island trust (https:/www.surveymonkey.com/r/islands-trust-housing-survey). All this hard work has given the community data to base its decisions on. All the data is pointing to the same problem, we lack safe affordable housing on Gabriola. Housing is one of the social determinants of health, a factor that directly contributes to our overall health and wellbeing, when the social determinants of health are poor or substandard there is a direct negative impact to physical health. These social determinants must be addresses in order to even consider health promotion. Dr. Hasselback- a Medical Health Officer with Island Health- recently gave a presentation to the Gabriola Health and Wellness Collaborative. He stated that 39% of the children living on Gabriola live in low income homes, 39% of our community’s children live in poverty. at the BC NPHA conference Isobel Mackenzie the Seniors Advocate for BC stated low income seniors are much more likely to enter long term care facilities simply due to economic reasons rather than care needs, our elders have to leave their community due to poverty rather than health. As the community social worker, I see the need for safe housing on a daily basis, the level of need in this community is making my heart hurt. Seniors live without heat, people live in the woods, families can’t afford food or housing. This is happening to our community members, its not getting better its getting worse. The minister of housing Selina Robinson recently stated “there is a housing crisis, something needs to be done and the status quo can’t go on”.

Gabriola as a community has discussed housing many times and many events over the last few years. Many great ideas have been generated- co-op housing, family housing, seniors housing, again in place, eco-housing, affordable home ownership, live/ work studios for artist, indigenous housing… The community has generated many great ideas, the need has been established, research and documents continue to be written- so what is the hold up? LAND, land is the hold up. We need land in order to move forward with whatever type of affordable housing fits our community culture. Land could be donated, purchased by the community, or a non-profit could partner with a developer. Land is the largest barrier we are facing to house our community members. Not the only barrier but the first one. Once land is secured government funding can be accessed. Our community and the province are facing a huge challenge; as a community let’s envelop our challenge with love, let’s work towards providing one of the most basic needs to all of our community members.