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General News · 31st January 2024
Tammy Allwork
Happy New Year! Is it too late to still be saying that? I hope not. With the beginning of a new year, it’s an opportunity to look back at 2023 and what the Housing Society (CHS) accomplished together with the Cortes Community, as well as to look ahead to 2024 and beyond.

For property owners, the beginning of the year is when we get our property tax assessments from BC Assessment. I was shocked to see that our assessed value went up over 30%... again. I guess that’s good news if you plan to sell your property, but if you are just trying to make-ends meet and don’t want to sell, or if you are hoping to buy here, that’s bad news. It means that buying on Cortes will be even more unattainable for many many people that already live here and would like to own a home. It is also a reminder of the importance of taking swift action to tackle the housing challenges that are plaguing our community.

I am writing today to provide you an update on our 2023 activities and where we’re going in the year ahead:

Housing Forum- In December we hosted, along with Regional Director Mark Vonesch, our first housing forum. We had a great turn-out, both in person and online with community members sharing their concerns and proposed solutions. In the days ahead we’ll be providing you with our “What We Heard” report that summarized the discussions from 16 break-out sessions and the housing survey, which had over 250 responses.

Rainbow Ridge- We are working to develop 24 townhouses on 6 acres of the Rainbow Ridge land. We have some progress to report:
• A $5,000 grant contribution from the Coastal Community Credit Union, helped fund the drilling of our well, which we are pleased to report has great water flow.
• With funding from local donors and the Canada Healthy Communities Initiative we were able to build a trail network that now enables people to walk from Manson's Lagoon to Smelt Bay, virtually all off road in addition to providing free firewood to keep many residents warm this winter. Watch for daffodils to emerge at some of the new trailheads this spring.
• We completed a significant milestone in submitting our application for funding to BC Housing to support Rainbow Ridge. If successful, we would receive grants, loans, as well as on-going rent subsidies so that many of the townhomes can be rented at below market prices.
• We were thrilled that we got about $2 Million in pledges and direct contributions of funding from local donors that helped to make our grant application to BC Housing more competitive.

Funding- We received new funding for our operations in 2023: 1) the Municipal and Regional District Tax (MRDT) came into effect this year. We became the first community in the Province of BC taxing visitors who stay in hotels and short-term-rentals with 100% of those proceeds going to support affordable housing. That “Hotel Tax” system is now up and running and we received over $8,000 in the last part of 2023. Special thanks to our Regional Director, Mark Vonesh and the team at the SRD for helping to get this done. 2) We were awarded $73,000 per year for three years from the Vancouver Foundation’s Recovery and Resilience Grant (2023, 2024, 2025).

In total, we received $892,000 (mostly to support future Rainbow Ridge construction) and spent $226,960.

New Members on the Team- Sandra Wood, who has been our fearless leader since the beginning of the Cortes Housing Society has begun her retirement by stepping down as our Executive Director and I (Sadhu Johnston) have taken over in that role. We also have a new development consultant, who is helping to lead the Rainbow Ridge development project. Tinny Lalli from TGR Projects Ltd joined us in June 2023 and brings a lot of passion and experience to the team. I’m excited to let you know that we have some new board members joining the Housing Society board, but you’ll have to wait for my next email to hear who they are.

Looking Ahead- we will continue to focus our attention on developing the Rainbow Ridge townhouses. We will also be exploring other initiatives to address a broader range of solutions that were raised and discussed at the housing forum. We heard significant concerns about aquifer health and our ability to support more housing, which we are now applying for grants to work on. We heard that many property owners would like to rent part or all of their homes out, but are reticent, so we will be looking into ways that we can help get more of the existing homes occupied more of the year. We’re also going to be exploring how we can bring more housing opportunities for people living on Cortes in the near-term. Lastly, we are going to be partnering with FolkU to provide opportunities for learning and dialog by hosting a speaker series.

I intend to send-out a monthly e-update on our work and housing initiatives of interest.. As we continue our work into 2024, we have a lot to take-on in tackling the housing challenges and we look forward to hearing from you about your priorities, as well as your concerns.

You’ve made-it to the bottom of the update! Well done. Thanks for reading and caring about this wonderful community.


Sadhu Johnston, CHS Executive Director
On behalf of the Cortes Community Housing Society (CHS)