Sunday, January 6, 2008

To Mayor and Council

There are letters circulating on the internet to the effect that Mr. Vantreight is preparing to offer affordable housing as part of his proposal to build housing on farmland. He has made this offer before.

I have been actively seeking affordable housing for Central Saanich by encouraging the Council to ask developers to make 10% of the units they are proposing low-income subsidised housing.

I have spoken to this issue at Council many times over the years. Each of you knows that I care deeply about the provision of true affordable housing for Central Saanich. But I am opposed to building new houses on farmland.

This farmland is outside of our carefully chosen urban areas. We need this land to stay farmland. We need to preserve the garry oak and arbutus groves that our own staff have identified as important aspects of the hillside. It's value will increase as the climate changes we are facing become more apparent.

Furthermore it is too far outside our urban areas to be useful to the families who need affordable housing in our community. These are families without cars; families who must rely on bus transportation to get to stores, our hospital and their work. Affordable housing needs to be in our urban centres to make it convenient for the people it is meant to serve. We need a more wholistic approach to planning housing.

More importantly I would like it noted that when Mr. Vantreight suggested to me that he would give $100,000 per year for five years to build affordable housing he quickly added "but not in my development." He was clear and honest about his intentions.

We know that we cannot control what happens once we sign over farmland for development, land can be flipped and all the promises can vanish in an instant. Farmland needs to be used for farming. If Mr. Vantreight wanted to convert existing buildings to house farm labour maybe I'd be willing to look at that. That could be of some benefit to a farm and to our farming community. But this proposal benefits neither the farm nor the community.

Peter Parsons was right when he said we were witnessing a masterful shell game. The shells are still moving around, but we must keep our eye on the nugget underneath. Our farmland must be farmed.

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