Trust Council to host workshop on Housing in 2016

Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News

Tuesday, December 22 2015

Five years after the release of the Islands Trust “Affordable Housing Tool Kit,” Trust Council is planning a workshop for 2016 to see what the challenges and successes have been for Affordable Housing in the Trust Area.

Melanie Mamoser, Island Trustee for Gabriola, sits on the Trust Council’s Local Planning Committee.

In the later part of 2016, a workshop is being planned to bring in representatives from the local governments who’s jurisdiction includes the Trust Area and organizations involved in affordable/attainable housing.

Mamoser said, “we want to bring community agencies and governments in to ask what is working, what has been done, and what are the ongoing challenges and successes.”

“To be clear, there was  lot of background research done on this - we want to make sure people come with a baseline from the 2010 toolkit.

“It is an opportunity for community groups to get in on the ground level. Although all the islands are very unique, there is something we can learn from each other.”

A top priority for Trust Council is the Planning Committee’s project entitled, “Meeting Housing Needs.”

Mamoser said the Planning Committee is starting with the work done in 2010 when Trust Council released the Affordable Housing Toolkit, which was a long list of tools that could be used to address affordable housing (within land-use regulations) and which looked at rentals, transitional housing for seniors, and a number of other housing possibilities.

“So now, five years later, we’re revisiting, asking what has worked, what has been tried.

“As a first step we thought we’d canvas the islands and look at what’s been done since 2010.”

She said Secondary Suites has been a step taken on a number of islands. Salt Spring, Galiano, Saturna and Mayne islands have all adopted some version of a secondary suite bylaw.

Other islands are looking at subsidized housing.

The big D word: Density

Whenever housing is talked about on Gabriola, people start talking about Density.

Mamoser said she knows Density is a big challenge

“It is a big word - it brings up a lot of passion. We live on a fragile ecosystem and density is our way of managing growth.”

She said during the fall election in 2014, it sounded to her like people, “people wanted to be able to at least discuss density. 

“I don’t think it means increasing density - but we need to ask what are we concerned with.

“I think that’s going to be part of the discussion moving forward. We [the Gabriola Local Trust Committee] got a staff memo in July - it gave a list of 13 strategies that could be sued in meeting attainable housing needs - we’ve asked the Advisory Planning Commission (APC) based on this list which steps do they think are viable.

“Not all of [the steps] involve the word density.

“It is based on what the community wants or needs and how we make sure our bylaws serve the community’s needs.”

Mamoser said Gabriola has been the patient island when it comes to using some of the tools described in the 2010 Toolkit.

In 2010, the Local Trust Committee of the day was reviewing the idea of affordable housing and asking about cottages and whether cottage densities should be transferable between properties. But there were no changes made to allow that.

“We’ve been cautious [on Gabriola] and waited. But there is other experience in other island communities.”

More than affordable, Gabriola needs attainable housing

Mamoser said there has been great work done in the past to show there is more needed on Gabriola than just, “Big A Affordable Housing.”

She pointed to the 2009 affordable housing needs assessment - which maybe dated now, but which shows there are other needs on Gabriola.

“A safe and secure rental housing stock - that is something we need.

“How does  a single person with children afford to live on Gabriola? How secure is the rental housing stock? There is that baseline that came out of that needs assessment.

“It is still really wide open - I know we’ve talked a lot about secondary suites - but that might not be the direction that we go in.”

During the last term, secondary suites were legalized on Gabriola within the Agricultural Land Reserve.

Mamoser pointed out there are still 668 undeveloped lots on Gabriola.

“We have to consider what the future population of the island would be, and if, and if, and if.

“What does it all mean if those were all built, and with secondary suites?

“We need to be cautious, and considerate, and ask what the carrying capacity of the island is.”

Housing tops the list for many local government, according to Mamoser, no surprise as elected officials work to meet their community’s needs.

“We’re trying to take a more conscious look and ask are our bylaws meeting the needs of our community?

“These bylaws are the community’s bylaws - we are the elected officials who respond to the needs - it is a living document and we should see it that way, always within the mandate of Preserve and Protect. This is the beginning of a conversation we’re going to have over the next four years - we’re looking for the community input - we look forward to hearing from their perspective what the priority should be.”