There are six candidates running to become the next Island Trustees for Gabriola in the next Local Government Election, on October 15, 2022.The Sounder will be doing a weekly Q&A with the candidates, and welcomes questions to be sent to email@example.com to be provided to the candidates.
1. On November 9, 2021, the Saltspring Island LTC voted to defer enforcement activities for all unlawful dwellings being used for residential purposes. The Gabriola LTC is considering the adoption of a similar measure for Gabriola Island. Do you support this step, and – if it is adopted – would you continue it if elected?
Tobi Elliott: Absolutely yes on both counts. There was already a severe shortage of rental housing before this larger housing crisis. Until there is a plan for a sufficient supply of safe, secure rental housing, community-members should not be prosecuted for finding shelter wherever possible. I’ve personally experienced the health impacts of not having the security of a home. Access to housing is a human right.
Erik Johnson: Our Gabriola Local Trust has not had virtually any enforcement of bylaws concerning “illegal” residential dwellings for a very long time. Our departing Trustees voted to codify that policy “in perpetuity”, I would not support the use of the words “in perpetuity.” Agreement needs to have the word “existing” returned.
Wendy Kotorynski: Gabriola LTC has yet to solicit any commentary from the community in general on the matter. I would wait to see what the public says before deciding whether I support this step or continue it if elected. Having said that, I believe such a step should not be open-ended.
Wayne Mercier: Yes. A measure like that adopbed on SSI is a stop-gap response to our housing crisis. It’s not the comprehensive solution we need, but it is a pragmatic adaptation to necessity. It would also empower occupants of illegal suites to ensure their homes meet community standards for health and safety.
Lisa Webster: Fettering the use of our bylaws isn’t tenable. However, I could support such a directed measure, in general and if adopted pre-election, if it is a temporary measure, with defined start and end dates; allowing enforcement where health and safety is at risk and works towards regularization of existing non-conforming suites.
Susan Yates: I support the intent of this Resolution, but not as it is currently written. It has received feedback from the APC, the HAPC, and Planning and Enforcement staff, and I hope the LTC decides on a modified version of the Motion. If I were elected, I would also want the new Gabriola LTC to review it to gauge its effect and continue or make adjustments as required.
2. If you are elected as Island Trustee, what kinds of initiatives do you think can be brought forward by the Trust to increase affordable housing stock on Gabriola?
Tobi Elliott: Cooperate with groups working to acquire land for community benefit and to alleviate poverty. Create a Housing Agency that would create long term strategies that support diverse types and forms of housing. Develop land use strategies that cluster dwellings where there is already development, and downzone ecological areas that deserve protection.
Erik Johnson: The Trust needs to have an open mind to initiatives brought before the LTC but has to separate itself from being a developer. It’s the Trust’s mandate to judge the value or risks to our community of proposals presented, without any preconceived agenda, that results in ‘conflict of interest’ issues.
Wendy Kotorynski: Having 30 years collaborative, professional leadership work, it matters to me that consultation occurs and conditions in the interest of community are recognized. While many good solutions depend on provincial/federal government actions, I’m willing to consider any initiatives brought forward if they are within the Trust’s power and mandate.
Wayne Mercier: The LTC could increase allowed residential suites within commercial zones for mixed use housing. Secondary suites on small lots could be regulated through temporary use permits tied to owner occupancy of primary suites. Secondary densities could be stripped from some 2ha+ properties and reapplied elsewhere to create low density zones.
Lisa Webster: The Trust needs a stronger advocacy role for the creation of unique housing funding programs for all Islands. There has been significant work already completed analysing the housing ‘crises’ on Gabriola and the Trust Area. This work needs to be recognized and supported through other than a single project approach.
Susan Yates: I would refer to recent Council Motions and advocacy work with the province on affordable housing. UBCM supported Trust Council’s Motion EB24: Affordable Housing Support for Rural Area. Now is the time to work with the Regional Districts on Housing Authorities. With BC Housing. Recognize the funding formulas do not match Trust Area household incomes. Housing as investment at the expense of people who need homes is unacceptable.
3. How do (or should we) change our approach to the housing shortage on Gabriola?
Tobi Elliott: We need to go from reactive, market-driven approaches, to proactive landscape-level planning that will engage all levels of society. Enact a community-based process to generate appropriate, innovative local solutions, and import ideas being tested in similar communities, such as Salt Spring’s Tiny House Village pilot project.
Erik Johnson: Let’s look at real solutions that take into account our lack of a sewer system or community water supply, and legitimate concerns of our neighbours. We need funding at the Federal and Provincial level. Whatever agreement that we come to as a community, environmental challenges must be resolved first.
Wendy Kotorynski: Our housing problems were caused by global economic forces and government policies. We don’t have a housing shortage. With plenty of houses and undeveloped lots on which houses will be built, we have an affordable rental housing shortage. We need to first determine what demographic we want to provide for.
Wayne Mercier: The power to address Gabriola’s housing shortage rests with the community. Many approaches have been contemplated, but resistance to compromise and intransigent nostalgia for an idealized past have resulted in paralysis. The LTC can advocate, educate, encourage, and adapt but the alternatives remain: local responsibility, or corporate infiltration and decay.
Lisa Webster: Accept that the bulk of rental suites are non-conforming-suites and work towards the regularization of these suites. Support our tourism based economy, and create a quota system of limited, saleable business licenses for short-term-vacation-rentals based upon appropriate property criteria. Support limited development of multi-family housing through procedural clarification.
Susan Yates: Change our approach to affordable housing by updating our OCP/LUB to reflect the need and interest for more flexible and environmentally sound housing provisions, eg.: co-ops, co-housing, tiny homes, residential use in commercial areas, and housing agreements to ensure affordability. We should support housing advocates and groups so innovative ideas are forthcoming and put to use wherever possible. First Nations should be involved up front, not consulted after proposals are made.