After 14 years of serving you in the role of elected Regional Director to the Strathcona Regional District, I will not be seeking re-election to a fifth term this fall. I just do not see government as being the vehicle for the changes needed in these times. It has been a great honour and privilege to serve this community, and I will continue to do so through more generative, imaginative, collaborative and love-filled means.
Before the last election, I decided that this would be my last term and have said so openly to anyone who has asked, including media, for the last years. As anyone following local politics knows, this past term has been far from fun and generative for me. I have been in court and legal proceedings for 4 years; first successfully defending myself against malicious and unfounded allegations lodged at me by my own constituents days after the last election, then in relation to my shared land as a result of complaints lodged against us at the same time, and then finally myself taking the Regional District to court for its persecution of me and lack of required support for me as one its own. We will be in the BC Court of Appeal on this matter September 7-8th.
One of the main reasons I have persisted in my legal actions against the District is to support any future candidate’s interest in the position. I am admittedly stunned, yet grateful, that anyone would put themselves forward without the resolution of my legal situation in my favour. I am committed to assisting our next Regional Director with any knowledge and perspective that may be of value. Thanks to Mark Vonesch for putting his name forward. If anyone else wants to do so, please check out www.elections.bc.ca
. Candidates much register with Elections BC by September by September 9th.
As my term draws to a close, I will share some reflections on my time in office, the highlights most certainly being the purchase of the Whaletown Commons and my support for various local social profit initiatives.
Despite the many headaches, it has been a true honour to have had your continued support to serve our community. We really do live in one of the most remarkable places on Earth, in one of the most committed communities I know, and in one of the likely climactically resilient corners of the planet. The mounting challenges of our time are beyond comprehension. I ask of us all, that live in and love this island home, that we pull together in love and respect to face the times of disruption ahead. May we be seeds worth saving. May we be a citadel worth protecting. May our hearts be so filled with love that no matter what comes we dance. Housing Crisis
And with that in mind, and our shared love of this place brimming in our hearts, I am hereby making an impassioned plea to anyone with land and/or means to be generous to others, who are also dedicated to this place we all love, but have nowhere (decent) to live Our housing crisis, although understandable through the mechanisms of our modern financial world, is nothing short of criminal! We have monetized land to the point of our own undoing. The number of long-standing, committed community members, who work to keep this community turning, without (adequate) housing is horrendous
More people are joining us without the additional housing stock needed to support those already here, and more beautiful people want to come. We are still, remarkably, one of the most vibrant and diverse island communities… but this is hanging, very acutely, in the balance right now.
Without the typical development of new housing initiatives, either for profit or otherwise, the people who run the fabric of this community are getting pushed to the margins. And it’s not just the lower earning folks that are struggling for housing; our doctors, fire chief and teachers also have nowhere suitable to live!! There is just nothing available
Much of the ‘affordable’ housing here is on the backs of land owners who are sticking their necks out and breaking zoning laws to allow more density than permitted. And all the while our local government structure is unable to do its core job, to update our zoning bylaw, to pre-zone land, to facilitate and support community housing projects. What the Regional District did do, as it is legislated and funded by the Province, is do a Housing Needs Report. At the bottom of this article I offer some of its highlights and links to more information.
So, here is my plea. If you have land, share it! It’s that simple. We will need to live more than 1.4 people per house. Nowhere else in the world uses so many housing resources to house so few people. If you could use help with your property, yard work, childcare, invite someone to join you! Clear a spot for a tiny home or a cabin. If you have means, build a cabin for rent, even if it does not have the prospect of a good direct personal financial return. I am not blind the trials of sharing land. I live in a land share and it is complex and challenging, but I urge us to not turn away from this challenge. Think enlightened self-interest. Donate to the Housing Society https://www.cortescommunityhousing.org
and Community Foundation https://cortesfoundation.ca
. Think a thriving community where there are people to hire to put out our fires, make our coffees, care for us when we are sick, care for and educate our children, grow our food, fix our houses… and literally to hold our hands as we die!
I love this community more than makes any sense, as do so many of you!
I invite all of us, long-standing settlers and recent second homeowners alike, to translate that love into concrete action when it comes to housing our community.
In deep gratitude for the privilege of making this my home.
Regional Director, Cortes Island
Excerpts from the recent Regional District Housing Needs Report
This study looks at data that is comparable across electoral areas. Another concurrent study looking at stories from where we live was undertaken by the Campbell River and District Coalition to End Homelessness.
We have 240 seasonally occupied (or unoccupied) homes – that’s 30% of our homes without people in them building year-round community.
There are over 80 vacation rentals on Cortes, almost all of them are entire homes. But the average vacation rental unit earns only about $2,600 per year! (I must admit I find that hard to believe…)
Between 2006 & 2016 the total number of non-working people jumped 36%!
There are 31% less children under the age of 15 than a decade ago. We are losing our kids. We are losing families.
From 2005-2015, the number of households earning more than $80,000 grew from 45 to 120!
The income gap is now a chasm. While wealthier households grow, almost a third of residents have housing expenses that outstrip their means.
To fill the present need, we would immediately need to provide 40 affordable fee simple units for purchase and 75 affordable rental units. And that doesn’t account for all the good people we have already lost because there is nowhere to live. This also doesn’t account for all the young people who grew up here, want to return, and have nowhere to return to.
“The housing crisis on Cortes is dire, people are literally living in shacks, tents, unheated trailers and boats. My entire generation who grew up in the island has been forces to leave due to housing shortages.” SRD Housing Needs Survey Respondent
Population has been very stable, in 2021 1,115 people of Cortes in 560 households. Given that so few people live in most homes, more housing is needed for fewer people. Our population is aging with 31% of us 65-84 years of age. People is this age category have specific needs often with increasing care offered. The average cost of rent has increased by 72% between 2011 and 2021 in the Campbell River area. This has huge implications of families looking for housing. On Cortes, of course, there is just about nothing available for rent. The cost of home ownership on Cortes has increased by 165% since 2011!!!! The average price of a single detached home on Cortes has now reached about $800,000. The cost of home ownership relative to the median Cortes income earner is staggering! The price that the median Cortes earner can afford for a home in 2020 was $207,000 whereas the cost of the average home was $794,600, an affordability gap of nearly $600,000, or 400%! This challenge is just expected to get worse as housing challenges continue to ripple out, especially from urban BC.
Cost of rental and ownership feed into a statistic called core housing need. An individual is considered to be in a ‘Core housing need’ if they have unaffordable housing, if there is over occupancy or if their home is in major need of repair. On Cortes, 42% of renters are in a core housing need situation, and as we know so many have already left due to lack of housing stock. Lone parent families have the hardest time by far, as well as singles/roommates.
This work also did a housing survey which received 412 responses regionally, 33% of which came from Cortes. 26% of respondents said that their current housing did not meet their needs, 59% are worried about the cost of utilities, 49% are worried about the cost of repair and maintenance of their home, and 37% are worried about their physical ability to maintain their homes.
“Prices have gone through the roof and rentals are wildly expensive and/or unavailable. We need to come up with innovative solutions immediately! Zoning changes, perpetually affordable units, etc.”
“We need less airbnbs and more housing for our community members on Cortes. Many capable hardworking people leave due to nowhere to live.” This concern is echoed very broadly!
“There is no available housing in our community. Unless my children remain at home with me, or build another residence on my property, they will never be able to afford to buy a home on Cortes and there are absolutely zero rental accommodations available.”
• Encourage denser, multi-family options where appropriate
• Rental Zoning or Pre-Zoning
• Consider inclusionary zoning/density bonusing schemes
• Incentives to encourage affordable units
• Continue to monitor and regulate Short-Term Rentals
Video about the Cortes portion of the study found here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3hHfL2P4x9o
The full report can be found here: https://agenda.strathconard.ca/SRDAttachments/SRDCommittees/Open/EAS/15-Jun-22/20220615-Housing-Needs-Reports.PDF
For the presentation look” https://agenda.strathconard.ca/SRDAttachments/SRDCommittees/Open/EAS/15-Jun-22/2022_06_15---SRD-Housing-Findings.pdf