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Vancouver Island housing crisis takes centre stage ahead of municipal election

Non-profit housing providers give calls to action at a Victoria press conference
Corinne Saad, executive director of Gorge View Society, discusses the joint list of calls to action during a media event on Sept. 22 at the Camas Gardens Supportive Housing Site in Victoria. (Austin Westphal/News Staff)

As B.C.’s municipal elections quickly approach, Vancouver Island non-profit housing providers are asking local governments to step up their role in tackling a dire affordability crisis.

Leaders on behalf of 14 non-profit housing organizations on the Island released six calls to action for municipalities on Thursday (Sept. 22).

“The lack of affordable housing that we have in British Columbia – and especially here in the Capital Regional District – is impacting our community’s well-being and health. But it’s also impacting our economy and our businesses,” said Virginia Holden, executive director of the Greater Victoria Housing Society. “What this means on the ground is that we have seniors living in precarious situations, women and children fleeing violence for lack of affordable homes, businesses that can’t find people to work and young people and newcomers who can’t find places that they can afford.”

The organizations, together under the banner of the Vancouver Island Housing Leadership Network, oversee more than 6,000 housing units throughout the Island and more than 1,000 additional ones in pre-development or under construction.

They’re calling on all candidates for municipal office to seriously consider the calls to action, which include establishing a separate housing centre in each municipality, unlocking access to municipal land, implementing financial exemptions for non-profit developers, promote collaboration with organizations and access collective expertise.

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The primary objective of issuing the joint list of calls to action is to bolster housing supply to keep up with rapidly growing demand.

“The reality is that we cannot achieve affordable housing and affordable communities without new supply,” Holden added. “And this means supply of all types and all over the housing spectrum, from new forms of home ownership like townhouses and duplexes, to rental and supportive housing. Research shows that we are losing five units of affordable rental housing in B.C. for every one unit of government-supported housing being built.”

Among the chief barriers preventing non-profit developers from creating supply are high land costs, stigma against low-income housing, long permit application processes and loads of red tape – all of which municipal governments could have a hand in lowering.

But even if municipalities were to implement all six calls, the solution won’t be simple, nor will the issue be resolved overnight, said Carolina Ibarra, chief executive officer of Pacifica Housing.

“Somehow housing needs to be built because having people on the streets is not an alternative.”

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Austin Westphal

About the Author: Austin Westphal

Austin Westphal is the newest member to join the Saanich News team.
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