Letter: Housing Authority isn’t the be-all end-all

Response to Andru’s Oct 12th edition editorial proposing a housing authority:

First, I don’t think anyone is saying that tiny homes, “homesteading 2.0”, micro-subdivisions and removing land from the ALR are solutions (and they are certainly not novel!) to the housing issues in our communities. Those of us who argue for these things are just saying that they may provide an incremental increase in supply – and that they are easily doable, so why not? An incremental increase is still an increase, and in fact, they’ve been proven throughout history, but that was of course before we had all the regulations we have now. (And why do you say “watch out” after you allow tiny homes?)

I don’t think the “free marketeers” are claiming the answer is just to build more housing either – but building more housing is addressing some issues (more taxes for the Village, more jobs and more income for those working here) and even if they are owned by non-residents, maybe they could be encouraged to build secondary suites that could be rented out to locals. Also, if there is the opportunity of purchasing new development, maybe non-resident buyers will be less likely to buy up existing properties in our downtown core and try to turn them into short term rentals. Again, these are incremental effects, no one is claiming they are the solution.

Second, your example of the Whistler Housing Authority is not a solution either – it was “established in 1997 as an integral part of the community’s approach to ensuring those who live and work in Whistler can afford to remain in the community (emphasis added).” Again, a part of the solution, not the whole solution.

And it’s not “simple.” Whistler’s housing authority was started 20 years ago, with $6 million in start-up funds collected through development levies. How long would it take us to raise that amount of money? I’ve spoken to people who voted no on the Curling Club proposal because they were scared of their taxes being raised $13.40 per year per $100,000 value – and the curling club was only looking for $64,000 a year. How much would it cost local residents to start up a housing authority? And how long until we see results from it?

If you are proposing that we start levying additional fees on developers, we should consider whether that might encourage them to go outside of the Village boundaries, or just not develop here at all. Developers know already that costs are higher here because of our “remoteness” and the lack of many specialized services available locally. I think it would be more effective to try to encourage specific types of housing development, rather than to suggest some additional tax on everything.

And if you want to talk about additional fees, what about higher taxes on undeveloped land? That might encourage vacant property owners to develop or sell, rather than speculating. I can just hear people screaming at me already…

Let me suggest that rather than tearing down other people’s ideas and efforts, you consider each of these for what they are – pieces of a great big puzzle we’re all still testing out. Yes, housing affordability and availability is an issue here, as it is in many places in Canada. We have opportunities to create our own solutions, and they are not one-size-fits-all.

Korie Marshall
Valemount