“We are living in a housing crisis”… we’ve heard it, and many islanders are living it. Adjusted for inflation, median home prices in Area C have increased 35% since 2011. Housing concerns reverberate through local businesses, seniors who desire low-maintenance and walkable access, and young folks and families facing a close-to-zero-percent vacancy rate. The crisis deepens when you consider growing ferry staffing concerns and paramedic availability, or lack thereof.
The recent Housing Needs Report for Area C quantified many known concerns:
— A need for more seniors’ housing, affordability
— The desire for alternative housing options (ie tiny homes and secondary suites)
— The limitations of existing water and sewer infrastructure
Insufficient housing for seasonal workers
— The challenges posed by a rise in short-term rental and recreational properties
Respondents suggested solutions to consider include cooperative housing models, land trusts, and seniors housing clusters as potential methods of improving availability and stabilizing the market.
Our rural nature is highly valued by current residents and those who desire to make a life here. Quadra’s Official Community Plan directs density and infill housing to QCove and Heriot Bay. In QCove, proposed densification is bumping against Island Health’s stringent water standards, reinforcing the need for a water system for the Cove. As Director, part of my responsibility will be to work closely with Island Health to find meaningful long-term solutions and advocate for necessary water system funding.
Eyeing densification, we must be mindful of water sustainability. There is understandable community interest in gaining a thorough understanding of Quadra’s network of underground aquifers. This is important work – and something I strongly believe the Regional District could collaborate on as an opportunity for us to learn more about where we live and inform our decision-making.
Short Term Vacation Rentals (STVRs) proliferation are causing concern locally and more broadly through North America and beyond. According to the recent Housing Needs Report, in 2021 there were 177 STVRs in Area C (up from 54 in 2016). Many jurisdictions are implementing bylaws and solutions designed to fit their individual locales. I’m keen to facilitate a series of community conversations to gather the information we need to design solutions which will suit us.
Interestingly, the 2021 Census reported that 331 Area C dwellings were “not occupied by usual residents”, which raises the question of whether STVRs are the primary challenging influence on the local housing market. Perhaps it’s time to revisit and critically consider if the Speculation and Vacancy Tax could apply to islands, something the Province has so far refused to consider.
Float houses symbolize resilience and are a historic part of coastal culture. My mom and her seven siblings were raised in a float house for years and I too have enjoyed living in float homes. According to the Housing Needs Report, “creative housing solutions will be critical to meeting housing needs”.
In QCove there’s a waterfront location with access to the sewer system. Permitting this would require adjusting our community plan but Quadra is in dire need of a location for liveaboard homes and it would support our community’s ability to thrive.
I believe many small shifts can add up to significant change, and I’m interested to hear your ideas. I’ve built a Resources page which you may find useful, it has links to the Housing Needs Report and Quadra’s Official Community Plan along with other informative community documents.
This is an expansion of an article first published in the Bird’s Eye, a local weekly publication.