Trustees calling for establishment of an islands housing authority

·2 min read

Gabriola and Salt Spring Island trustees are seeking Trust Council’s support to call on the B.C. government to create a housing authority for the Islands Trust.

Gabriola Trustee Scott Colbourne and Salt Spring Trustee Laura Patrick’s request for decision calls for Trust Council to declare that a housing equity and workforce shortage crisis exists on many islands, including Gabriola, and that the province “create, fund, govern and administer an Islands Housing Authority-type entity that will develop housing solutions across the Islands Trust area.”

Such an entity would be designed to own land, undertake planning work and development projects, apply for rezoning, handle grants, manage housing agreements and “have the capacity to work more efficiently and effectively with the required partners, from other levels of government to individual not-for-profits, right across the seven regional districts involved,” the request says as background. The authority’s mandate would need to include entry level and non-market homeownership and shared owner housing models, it adds.

Colbourne told the Sounder that reports like the Regional District of Nanaimo-led social needs assessment and strategy and the Gabriola Local Trust Committee’s biocultural and housing diversity program corroborate that action needs to be taken.

“These are very big issues to tackle, especially for a form of government that doesn’t have a great amount of capacity or funding. We’re calling on the provincial government to help us.”

Funding of a housing authority should come from the province, the request says. The report heading to Trust Council suggests a customized instrument as an option, such as a real estate excise tax – tax on the sale of real property – as is used in the San Juan Islands.

Colbourne believes establishment of a housing authority would have a “net benefit for residents,” and would support protection of the environment and reconciliation with First Nations. The current housing situation “has a huge economic impact” from businesses not being able to find local employees and ferry schedule delays to the environmental impacts of certain housing types, Colbourne said.

Discussion on the resolutions is scheduled for Dec. 2. The resolution language describes that islands within the trust area would opt into the entity. Colbourne noted development issues across the trust area are not homogenous and what Gabriola or Salt Spring is facing may not be so for other islands. His message to trustees: “If you’re facing these situations, please don’t stop us from looking for solutions. Let us make this request of the province to help.”

Rachelle Stein-Wotten, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Gabriola Sounder

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