Sucking the Oxygen Out of Affordable Housing Solutions – Keith Porteous


Sucking the Oxygen Out of Affordable Housing Solutions

The threads of text about the Local Trust Committee’s Housing Advisory Planning Committee appearing on the Denman Island Bulletin Board, reveals that which is not well understood, and conspicuously, not even contemplated. Much of it is finger pointing at local governance and its rules by some of the same people involved with the APC, while never considering that residents can get together in an ad hoc effort to discuss housing and human health services without involving the same institutions they believe are impeding needed improvements. Instead, the loudest voices wade back into another slow and bureaucratic process, even Chairing its appointed housing advisory committee, then publicly complaining that the process and its enablers are flawed. Perhaps we have identified the problem in addressing needed changes.

We have been through all this before without producing the result of increased access to affordable housing, even when the Local Trust Committee has amended some bylaws. It may be faint praise, but to the Islands Trust’s credit, they have suspended bylaw enforcement of some non-conforming housing. What is not understood by many, is that Islands Trust has no legal jurisdiction as a housing authority, where they are limited to zoning and land use only. They have no power to enforce rent controls, or initiate any development of housing, affordable and not. The major impediments to affordable housing development are Provincial laws relating to water and septic and setbacks from riparian areas, and of course the funding needed to build it. Whatever changes the APC may recommend, it will have no effect on these Provincial laws.

So what is all this self-righteous grandstanding about? Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result? Hopefully, Denman Green will be built, and some people will be housed affordably, following what will amount to a 10 year effort. And then we’ll still be faced with many of the same access to affordable housing problems, with nearly no rental vacancies, residents with low incomes, and some human health issues that contribute to an individual’s capacity to find comfort in a safe and affordable home. We don’t need (god), The United Nations, or the Islands Trust to tell us what needs to be done. And all the self-congratulatory and performative backslapping is completely unnecessary, as are more surveys.

We will have to accept that simply changing local bylaws is not necessarily THE solution, or at least not the only solution, or even the presumptive best solution! Many people with housing issues need different kinds of help, and we should be addressing the deficit in local support for health and human services. Looking at these issues from a different perspective starts with supporting people’s needs based on their personal circumstances. We already have some zoning for small secondary dwellings, without the intended outcomes. Entering into yet another cumbersome, bureaucratic, one size fits all process that will take months and years, and has an extremely low probability of creating fundamental change, is a fool’s errand.