Key to new doors lies with local government

Early on in the process there was consensus around the goal, which was: “to help those who work on our peninsula afford to live here.”

On behalf of the Interim Board of the Peninsula Workforce Housing Partnership, I would like to comment on the editorial, The key to new doors (PNR, April 22).

For the past two years, MP Elizabeth May has convened regular roundtable meetings of an informal group of more than 50 stakeholders, to assist in addressing the multi-jurisdictional challenge that is the high cost of housing in our area, and in particular on the Saanich Peninsula. The group consisted of a cross section of the community, including elected officials, business leaders and concerned residents.

Early on in the process there was consensus around the goal, which was: “to help those who work on our peninsula afford to live here.”

The housing roundtable has focused on developing market solutions for what has been termed “workforce housing.” This is defined as housing that is affordable to households earning 80% to 200% of the target demographics’ median income. In this case, the target demographic is everyone working on the Saanich Peninsula; the range of housing affordability for this group of workers is from $200,000 to $500,000, and everything in between.

Recently, housing roundtable participants determined to support the creation of a Peninsula Workforce Housing Partnership, to continue and focus the work of the roundtable group on developing market solutions to address the problem that is lack of available workforce housing.

Your editorial suggested that this interim body would base its model on the Whistler Housing Authority. This is not the case. Rather, the Whistler model is but one of many successful examples of workforce housing solutions across Canada from which important lessons can be learned.

Our Interim Board is already at work in discussions with developers and planners to attempt to arrange for developer commitments for our first 10 units of newly planned housing as soon as possible. The moment progress is made in this regard the community will be informed. We are operating on the principle of “needing action” rather than more talk.

In addition to the work carried out by the housing roundtable on workforce housing, MLA Gary Holman has offered to lead a study into social housing (low-income, non-market) options and requirements on the Saanich Peninsula. Housing solutions for this demographic are likely to require a significant assisted or subsidized housing component.

The problem of lack of available workforce housing will not solve itself. The key to new doors on the Saanich Peninsula lies in the hands of our mayors and municipal councilors, to make more land-use and planning decisions which will allow the creation of new market housing within the financial reach of local workers.

It is only through our elected officials continuing to demonstrate leadership on this front by taking decisions to address the problem of lack of available workforce housing, and shifting away from the status quo, will we achieve our goal of helping those who work on our peninsula afford to live here.

Silvia Bonet, Interim Board Chairperson, Peninsula Workforce Housing Partnership