Saturday, March 1, 2008

Councillor Bob Thompson in the TC: A Response

Councillor Bob Thompson is way off the mark when he defends Central Saanich’s record on affordable housing and homelessness.

The “search for regional solutions” that he refers to should mean that we all provide subsidized housing in our own backyard, not that we slough it off to “the urban core.” Providing money so that Victoria could build wasn’t the reason I stood up at Council so many times and asked them to join the Capital Region Housing Trust Fund (with Bob Thompson voting against the motion over and over). We need subsidized housing built in Central Saanich and every other municipality has a right to complain about us. We are not doing our share. Not by a long shot.

When the homeless count was done twenty-two of the homeless interviewed said that they regularly slept in Central Saanich. Anyone who checked out the waiting lists for housing would discover many individuals and families from Central Saanich waiting for the security of an affordable roof over their heads. Seniors and young people alike are being driven out of our community because we won’t do what’s just and fair and decent.

Too many people in Central Saanich are too comfortable and have no realistic understanding of the housing pandemic around us. Homelessness and the fear of homelessness creates severe physical and mental health problems, policing problems, family breakups and delinquency. The cycle of instability creates depression and inertia and a sense that a family has been abandoned by its community. We are driving people away from their support systems into areas where they will inevitably become addicted or ill, or where they may die.

Central Saanich could and should be making the provision of subsidized housing units a condition of development in our community. I have suggested that 10% of the units of any development or cash in lieu for developments under 10 units, be the standard. Based on the developments just completed, or still in the works this would give us roughly 20-30 units to work with and a considerable sum of cash to cover the additional infrastructure costs. Councillor Thompson regularly raises objections to this idea asking how will we administer it, who will be chosen to live there and what does ‘affordable’ mean? All of his questions have been clearly handled by many other jurisdictions, but he continues to ask the same questions.

Councillor Thompson is our representative to the Capital Region Housing Trust Fund. He has not asked council to allow him to put forward a request for funding for any type of subsidized housing in Central Saanich. Yes, Council would have to work out what it wanted, who would build it and who would house it, but this is never on our agenda. No committee has been struck. No work is being done.

Yes, Central Saanich has created a new secondary suites bylaw. That is not nearly enough considering the backlog of affordable housing needed in our community. And while the bylaw has come in, Central Saanich is still shutting down older, less expensive suites rather than providing long-term, no interest loans to the homeowners so the suites can be remodelled to meet the new bylaw. This is because we have no coherent housing plan for our community. Nor do we speak up and call for the provincial and federal governments to make housing plans and provide funding.

‘Let someone else do it’ should be our civic motto.

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