General News · 10th July 2018
The Cortes Shuffle, Housing First
When Peter Wrinch, 43, arrived on Cortes last year as the new CEO of Hollyhock, he could not find an affordable rental house anywhere on Cortes, not even through AirBnB. It was August. So he pitched a tent for a week before he moved to a vacated cottage on the Hollyhock property.
Peter quickly realized that lack of housing was a huge constraint on him as an employer. “To truly prosper, the stock of housing, intergenerational housing has to increase. We are at such a loss in society, when we don’t have our elders around us. And the need for affordable housing for the young is huge on Cortes and I will support the community in every way I can.”
As an employer of 81 people with hopes of expanding to 120 people, Peter has already heard many bad housing stories from his staff and is afraid that his efforts to recruit young people from all over Canada may fail because of the lack of affordable housing on Cortes. Many of his staff including a manager are already engaged in the ‘Cortes shuffle’ moving every summer and often every three months as house owners come and go.
Peter is not new to housing issues. Raised by a single Mom who battled prejudice and marginality raising four children in Richmond, issues of equity and fairness came to the forefront early in his life. He said, “One time when my Mom was called into school as I had a disagreement with other boys like boys do, not a fight, the Vice-Principal told my Mom that I would become a criminal later in life.”
Instead of turning to crime, Peter turned towards finding ways of creating a more just and kinder society. He studied utopian societies in college and then joined Pivot, a non-profit that works with the most marginalized including homeless people, sex workers and drug addicts in Vancouver. “It became very clear to me, that no intervention could have long term impact unless these people have housing. You cannot have a stable life without stable housing.”
After 10 years at Pivot, when Peter moved to Nation Builder, a technology firm that sells digital software to help people organize, he woke up to his own prejudices as a progressive person. “Beneath the strong political differences among people I met, I realized people are just people. They aren’t bad people, just people with a different world view and I was doing myself a disservice by dismissing them so completely. There is real power in dialogue, especially with people you disagree with. In a polarized system we can’t build a better society with only half the people.”
As he searched for new forms of leadership, Peter first encountered Hollyhock in 2007 and he became CEO in 2017. I asked him for his vision for Hollyhock. “Hollyhock I hope will become even more engaged in the world; we have to understand this moment in history, and be open to this moment, to help people realize that people are their own authentic force.”
And to manifest this vision, Cortes needs more affordable housing.
Comment by Peter Wrinch on 13th July 2018
Thank you both Patricia and Nikie for sharing your thoughts. Over the years, there have been many calls for Hollyhock to build staff housing. Becoming a landlord is a serious endeavour especially when you are running a seasonal business on an island. I was recently at the Holistic Centre's Gathering and heard from Centres like Hollyhock that staff housing and being a landlord is a completely separate business and it is not something we are looking at right now. We deeply support and recognize the need for more affordable housing on Cortes. We are thrilled by all the important work that has been by the Cortes Island Seniors Society, the Cortes Foundation, and the Housing Committee and lots of other individual supporters.
Affordable ... housing? Is it a movie?
Comment by Nikie on 12th July 2018
Having lived and worked in a few resorts I feel compelled to point out that they usually provide on-site, low-cost accommodation for their employees, generally known as "Staff-Com", for this very reason.
Aside from that I agree with the article. This is not just a problem on Cortes, it is a problem absolutely everywhere in Canada. It makes life extremely difficult for anyone who wan't able to buy property before the mid 90s, which was the last time affordable housing existed just about anywhere.
Comment by Patricia L on 11th July 2018
For myself, the intention of bring employees from all across Canada is a strange one when you are situated on an island with 1000 people, many of whom need work. I would like to see Hollyhock become an employer of local people. One who would give individuals enough hours to live on. To come here in summer and expect to find housing is like going to Vancouver on a long weekend. Might it be possible for HH to build a place for imported workers in the summer? Otherwise, if they are trying to pay rent, they will use up all their wages.