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General News · 18th January 2019
Hayley Newell
As the new year dawns, we take a breath and a good hard look at all that has occurred. The following is a summary of the incredible past year; where we started, all we accomplished together, and what lies ahead in 2019. 

Where We Have Been

Fundraising: To date, over 100 community members have contributed a total of $1.4 million towards our $1.7 million fundraising goal. This includes approximately $680K in community backed low interest loans, and almost $800K in cash donations -- no banks have been involved!  These funds enabled: 

- CISS to purchase 51 Acres of Residential Land on March 15 and
- CIBATA purchased 2.5 Acres of Commercial Land on April 30.

These exciting new community lands and plans were announced at a public presentation on April 7: Since then, the following steps have progressed quickly.

June 1-3 Community Open Houses & Architectural Workshop #1: In June we began intensely collaborating with RWA Architects in the first round of three design workshops. Our goal was to begin the process of conceiving both a master plan for the entire property and a site plan for the new community housing units. Take a look at the draft output from this first workshop, and stay tuned to the next workshop and more public open houses in the New Year.

June 7th: A naming contest was launched to enlist the creativity of the whole community to choose a name for the new housing initiative that will be home to some island residents who do not currently have stable year round homes. Over 80 names were submitted.

July 14 Housing Celebration and Fundraiser: The response to the Cortes Community Housing celebration and fundraising initiative on Saturday July 14th was a full house in Manson’s Hall, all of whom received an informative, entertaining, and inspiring call to participate in bringing a dream into reality.

Sept 13 Town Hall Meeting Q&A: We hosted a meaty Town Hall meeting to give info and field Q&A. The phase 1 of adding four additional units to the existing Seniors Village was described as well as phase 2 which is planning to build 20 rental units on the new land to accommodate multi-generational housing needs. Residency requirements and lake health concerns were discussed at length as were a host of other inquiries.

New Neighbourhood Name: Our community engaged wholeheartedly in the naming contest. Many of the names submitted reflected deep thoughtfulness and a love of this place we call home. Thank you to Sue Ellingsen for submitting our winning name: Rainbow Ridge.

What’s Now

BC Housing: We submitted two separate grant applications to BC Housing during September, one for 4 additional rental cottages in the existing Seniors Village and one for 20 new rental units to be built upon Rainbow Ridge that will house Cortes Islanders of all ages.  We are aiming to meet BC's highest standard of energy efficiency, and construct high quality, durable, low maintenance homes. There is lots of potential for innovative shared energy design (geothermal or solar if our finances permit) and green wastewater systems. We plan to use local materials and services for the building itself, specifically for finishing work and value-added components. 

Major Grant Award: Our application to BC Housing for $400,000 to build 4 additional accessible rental units in the Seniors Village was selected as part of the first round of funding announcements. In addition, the Housing Committee was pleased to receive positive encouragement from BC Housing regarding our other grant application for 20 rental units in Rainbow Ridge. We will continue our pre-development planning and local fund-raising to complete our community’s contribution of both cash donations and land assets towards building this legacy project. We look forward to working with BC Housing and getting construction started as soon as possible for the Seniors Village expansion.

Waste Water Systems: The septic system in the Seniors Village already has sufficient capacity to handle the sewage requirements of the Seniors Village expansion. We are already working with Ron McMurtrie & Associates to design an advanced Waste Water system for Rainbow Ridge to handle all the on-site septic needs for 20 future rental units.

Funding for Freshwater/Stormwater Research: We have hired a hydrogeologist who will design a stormwater management system for the property, determine aquifer capacity for drinking water, and design a surface water testing system for the Rainbow Ridge property that protects the watershed and reverses some of the damage incurred by the last clear cutting on that land. We are working in collaboration with FOCI on lake stewardship.

Special Thanks: The Housing Committee thanks Noba Anderson for her tireless energy and enthusiasm, during her maternity leave, which helped propel us forward with the common vision of creating accessible and stable housing on Cortes. Together we have moved mountains in the last year and half, thanks to so many beautiful pieces of synchronicity, so much hard work, and an abundance of generosity. As the CISS Housing Committee moves towards becoming an official Housing Society with its own charity status in 2019, this means that Noba Anderson as our Regional Director will no longer be able to participate as an active committee member of the Housing Project, we have accepted her resignation as of December 12/2018 with regret and appreciation for all she has contributed to the amazing success of this project.

Open invite for creative writings on Home: A chance for us to reflect as a community as to how important HOME is, for those of us who have one and for those of us who still need one. 

Home for the Holidays:  We invited you to consider giving the gift of a “home” for those who currently live on Cortes Island, but do not have a stable year round rental home of their own.

What’s Next?

2019 looks to be as exciting and packed with possibility as was our past year:

- Working with BC Housing to start construction on the Seniors Village.
- Architectural Workshop #2 early in 2019.
- Continuing to host your ideas and creative writing on HOME
- Setting up a new housing society that will build and manage the units on Rainbow Ridge.
- Community outreach to continue through town hall meetings, open communications to listen, address concern, and hear creative input.
- Continue with our fundraising to raise the remaining $300K needed.

This project is both a dream and the very real tangible work of many hands, minds and hearts. Like all long term commitments, it takes time, patience, hope, resources both financial and energetic.  We as a community will continue to both dream and labor this project into being during 2019 and beyond. Tax-deductible donations to enable the next phase of pre-development & design can be made by visiting the donation page on our website:

There you can also find a map of the purchased lands, and details on the July 14th fundraiser, Workshop #1 and our Town Hall Summary.

The CISS Housing Committee wishes each of you a healthy vibrant New Year and our heartfelt gratitude for all the different levels of support you have offered this affordable housing initiative so far, and we thank you in advance for the support yet to come.