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General News · 9th April 2019
Bill Dougan
For as long as I have lived on Cortes Island, housing has been a challenge for many. When I first moved here, 14 years ago, many people who had a home had to move out during the summer months when the owners wanted to use these homes. Though it wasnít ideal, it worked for many and allowed people time to search for that elusive year round home. At that time it was not common for people to leave the island because they could not find a home, something always seemed to work out for most.
Things started to change, slowly at first, but with the success of Air B n B , VRBO and other like services a challenging situation started to become serious and , I feel , has now reached a crisis situation.
It was about 5 years ago when I remember their being a smattering of places on websites offering accommodation on Cortes, that quickly changed and in a very short period of time those listings grew from 5 or 6 to 30 and then 40. The result has been a gutting of young people from the island especially young families because even those 10 month a year rentals are gone . I personally know 2 families in the last couple of months who have had to move off because of a lack of housing available. These are people who have children that have lived nowhere else; one of the families had lived here for over 15 years, had great references from past rentals but simply could not find any place to live. Reading the Tide line, almost every day I see another listing for someone desperate for a place to live. IN most cases these people fail to find a place and have to move.
I recently know of a case of a senior who was renting the same place for over 20 years and because of a situation that had nothing to do with them as a tenant they had to move, a daunting and stressful perspective for anyone to have to go through let alone someone on a fixed income.
I hear the reasons why people donít want to rent out their cabins but in most cases itís not reality. Painting everyone with the same brush simply isnít fair.
Why does this matter? Why should I care?
First off everyone pays for the lack for housing. How do I pay for it ? You can see the constant ads for employers looking for employees; staff turnover causes not only disruption of services but increase in prices at your local stores and service providers. Some business s and service providers have simply chosen to move off island. This causes a decrease in potential employment but also those services have to be brought from off island causing in some case a doubling of the price for something that was once offered here. I can give you a case of a teacher who was recently employed on the island, the children loved them, the school loved them but there was simply no housing available for them to stay, I have seen and spoken to 4 people who simply cannot find anyone to assist them in getting work done on their property and homes . IN many cases the people just didnít show up in others they couldnít find anyone through ads or word of mouth. The people who likely didnít show up were run to thin, too much work and not enough time. They have to pick and choose the jobs they take.
The cycle can be vicious, not only is a community robbed of its vitality and its future but the services you want as a resident will be gone. One day there maybe no one to make your coffee or take your order at a restaurant, no one to answer the call when there is a fire or an ambulance is needed. No one to fix your roof when a limb comes through it after a storm or fix your well when it stops for no reason! Its already a challenge on Cortes Island to get most professional trades people in a reasonable amount of time. I have heard of people being told that they have to wait 3 or 4 months to get a job done by someone local.
There is a proposal for community housing which I fully support but I wonder if itís simply too late. We need to take this issue seriously or one day the services and business s that you count on will not be here to serve you.
I was wondering if it was possible to have a rental pool on Cortes.
One of the challenges is people have told me that they donít want to advertise because they donít want to say no to someone , there picky about who they rent to and they have every right to be . What if we had a data base that matched up owners of cabins with prospective tenets. It would be anonymous at first to allow discretion on everyoneís part but it could assist in matching up both sides. This is just one possibility and I am sure there are many. I simply ask that if you have a cabin or a home that you consider renting it to a local, without our young families Cortes will end up with a decreasing population and little future as a vibrant community.
I remember a good friend of mine and one I still miss , Allan Campbell saying to me ď Bill the last thing I want is to spend all my time hanging out with old people ď , Allan was 77 when he said that to me but he knew that without young people and young families a vibrant community didnít exist .
cheap housing
Comment by loyd fairweather on 13th April 2019
I live in a house which I built for less than $1000.
I could build 1500 homes for the same money they are going to pay for 4 homes in the seniors complex.
Do you know how much that would change the housing situation here?
Excellent points
Comment by Bernice on 11th April 2019
Well said, Bill. This is something to consider when making our next set of bylaws. Some vacation rental is definitely an asset, but the proliferation has affected rental housing among many other things. Last summer I counted 50 different places available for short term rentals.
housing crisis
Comment by sue vican on 10th April 2019

Well said, but let's not forget that some of us do not live on island, yet we want to use our vacation homes ourselves (that's why we bought and continually invest in these homes), so the only way that we can rent and earn income to fund all the expenses that go along with home ownership: property taxes, insurance, maintenance and more) is short-term seasonal "airbnb" rentals. Some of our homes are not even suitable for year round use. Vacation rentals bring seasonal jobs and much needed dollars to the local economy. So let's recognize the value that seasonal rentals bring to the economy and the island. For example vacation renters spend money at the local stores and restaurants. The housing crisis can not all be blamed on an increase on seasonal rentals. I know people who own vacation homes and do not rent them out; they stay closed for the off season when they are not on island. If they weren't allowed to leave them empty off season they would likely sell them to a year round resident, perhaps someone not on island today, and this would not create more rental housing for those looking. More year round housing would materialize if there were more year round high paying jobs. But that means more development which would change the nature of the island and the community.

As you know, I am happy to be providing a small year round rental on my property.

Sue V
Comment by Paul Ryan on 10th April 2019
Your article is right on the nose, Bill. If it makes you feel any better, you're not alone! Your neighbours on Quadra have the same problem.
Most of the long term rentals have turned into short term. I hesitate to use the term BnB, since all air bnb places don't provide breakfast. All you're buying is a bed. And I still don't believe you can make more money by renting short term. It's a lot more work, for sure and it ties you down, especially during the summer.
So, I'm with Bill. Consider renting long term to a local young family. We need our young people to stay here!
Can I get an Amen up in here?
Comment by Patricia L. on 10th April 2019
Well said Bill.
you can help
Comment by mike m on 10th April 2019
If you have land and don't have a secondary cabin you can build one rent it for 12 years. It will earn your money back. A well designed and built cabin is an appreciating asset. A new build you will have your pick of tenant.
If you need help with design and construction ask me. However I am building one now.
housing matters.
Comment by heather smith on 9th April 2019
I recently had to leave a community I had lived in for 15+years, 13 years on one property. The rents have become too high, too much rental housing has been shifted to Airb&b many of which run year round. At least 80% of housing is 2nd or 3rd homes empty except for holidays. So yes, the cafes, the grocery stores, the restaurants struggle to keep staff because we keep moving away.The construction work keeps men(few women) busy with well paying work, but that's it. Young people try their luck in Vancouver,people in their 30's-50's are retreating to even more remote areas because at least rent is cheap, if you can find it.
I can only hope I will find a medium or long term rental. I am surprised at how much wild space there is on Cortes, how much fair and decent housing could be tucked in that is more fitting with people's dreams of an island home than some suburban like housing complex.
Holiday rentals are important for tourism and income, but it should not be at the cost of residents' sense of home and safety.