Challenges and Successes: Croftonbrook and Dragonfly Commons
Seventeen joined us to welcome Kisae Petersen to this ASK Salt Spring gathering via Zoom. After a heartfelt Territorial Acknowledgement, Kisae spoke briefly about her many roles focused on addressing our serious housing issue.
Throughout our time together, we learned that Kisae is Executive Director of Islanders Working Against Violence - IWAV - (https://iwav.org. With many important functions helping our most vulnerable, IWAV is also the major force behind the creation of its three-phased Croftonbrook (https://iwav.org/affordable-rental-housing/), an affordable housing community on five centrally-located acres. Nearing completion of Phase Three, Croftonbrook will soon to accommodate 74 individuals and small families.
Severely challenged by the North Salt Spring Waterworks District’s (NSSWD) water moratorium, Croftonbrook’s water solutions have made it a provincial leader by its use of well water for a multi-family housing project, grey water for toilets, and catchment for landscaping. While a far more expensive and complicated alternate to the more traditional water district hookup, after six years of hard work, these complications have been successfully-addressed. (We also learned briefly about Croftonbrook’s successful work with the Salt Spring Community Energy Group (http://saltspringcommunityenergy.com/members/) to install solar power at Croftonbrook.)
Other housing hats worn by Kisae include her chair of the Housing Council, comprised of those in our community who are creating our much-needed affordable housing. She has also begun working with the Southern Gulf Islands Tourism Partnership (https://southerngulfislands.com/about-us/) with their project to address barriers to affordable housing in the Southern Gulf Islands region. Just beginning her work on this initiative, Kisae took the opportunity to acknowledge our locally-elected officials, two of whom were participants at this ASK Salt Spring gathering, for their continuous affordable housing support. She credited this support as a key element that has allowed Salt Spring to progress far further addressing housing than the other Southern Gulf Islands.
Kisae is also an enthusiastic Director of the proposed Dragonfly Commons Housing Society: (https://dragonflycommons.com).Questions at this gathering began with Dragonfly, an extremely apt topic as participants included three board members of this housing initiative. Unlike other affordable housing projects, Dragonfly seeks to provide 30 locally-working Salt Springers with the opportunity to own a small home. While Dragonfly faces a number of challenges, like Croftonbrook, water issues have been its most challenging.
Unlike Croftonbrook, these issues have not yet been resolved.
Also challenged by water, the good news is that Dragonfly has plenty of groundwater to meet provincial flow requirements. (Unfortunately, even this good news took years of struggle to get a licence, largely due to the fact that Dragonfly was one of the first applicants in a new provincial process.)
Despite this success, a seemingly-insurmountable hurdle is that, unlike multi-family rental projects, any water system linking more than four homes is legally considered a water utility. As a water utility, there are some extremely expensive requirements, including a non-refundable deposit in the range of $2 million. One solution, NSSWD ownership of the system, was recently dashed. Although all costs would be paid by Dragonfly and the new system would - theoretically - need little management, NSSWD staff are at capacity with many ongoing commitments, unable to take on any more projects.
An option offering some hope is CRD ownership of the Dragonfly water utility. With Gary’s support, Dragonfly Commons directors have met with CRD Victoria managers to explore this option. Gary has offered his support, promising to try to address any complications that arise.
Despite water woes, the Dragonfly Commons directors that participated in this ASK Salt Spring gathering were unanimous in their acknowledgement of our local Island Trustees and staff for their continuous support to make this project a reality.
The conversation shifted to the BC Housing supportive housing project on Drake Road. It appears that this supportive community is expected to be completed by September 2022. While buildings are available and can be transported and set up quickly, and BC Housing can skip certain required Islands Trust processes, challenges exist: While NSSWD has graciously-committed to offer temporary potable water as well as fire suppression needs, servicing the property with sewer, water, and power will take time and must meet regulations despite its provincial priority. Some wondered: Will these complications make it impossible for it to welcome residents this fall?
While it was agreed that BC Housing has given some mixed messages about this project, most also agree that this supportive housing project is a good thing for Salt Spring. Despite this, many are very concerned about BC Housing’s intention is to stop funding the Community Services shelter that is currently funded year ‘round, 24/7, at approximately $900,000 a year (as reported in a recent Driftwood article).,
It appears that BC Housing’s stance is that this 24/7, year ‘round funding was a temporary measure during COVID challenges; our local elected officials believe that this funding was permanent. MLA, Adam Olsen, CRD Director, Gary Holman, and Community Services Executive Director, Rob Grant, are working hard to convince BC Housing to continue funding the shelter. There was general agreement that, despite the benefits of this supportive housing project, it is unlikely to address needs of a very different groups of our most vulnerable who need emergency, temporary shelter.
Deeply concerning for many, one bright note is that it is believed that BC Housing’s funding of the shelter will continue until March 2023. This will allow the shelter to continue to accommodate those in need through the worst of the winter weather. Also - while it is not expected that the supportive housing project will meet all of the needs of the majority of the shelter users - this supportive housing should be in place by the time that shelter funding ends. If talks with BC Housing fail, it is possible that Community Services would seek other funding sources, but participants recognized that it would be extremely difficult to secure nearly a million dollars of ongoing funding from anywhere other than BC Housing.
Before leaving this worrisome topic of the shelter funding, we were reminded that BC Housing has been a key player in our other affordable housing projects. . .and, that its proposed 28 units of supportive housing is a very good thing.
As water remains a key component of affordable housing, a participant asked if NSSWD could prioritize affordable housing water hookups if the moratorium were lifted. While it appeared unlikely that NSSWD could legally impose this prioritization, a participant reminded us that the rezoning needed for multi-unit projects allows Islands Trust to prioritize affordable housing zoning approvals over those of market-rate housing.
Another participant asserted that there is enough water: water catchment is the solution to providing for all our water needs without impacting our aquifers. He asked why water catchment systems are not required for every new home. While a seemingly-simple option, another participant with a complete potable water catchment system spoke briefly about how, in his opinion, the unnecessarily-complex rules made this simple system overly difficult and expensive. Telling us that permits for his catchment system cost more than his building permit, he asked why we couldn’t simplify this process that is, in his words, insanely complex. Why don’t we create a step-by-step water catchment kit with all that is needed to install a system to encourage more to use this plentiful water source? (NOTE: After this gathering, several water catchment proponents committed to meet to discuss the creation of just such a kit.)
Clear from this conversation was that affordable housing projects, like any of our other complex issues, require collaboration and coordination of a large number of organizations. While a great deal is getting accomplished, unfortunate silos do exist, with enthusiastic organizations and governmental bodies unaware of others’ activities. The Housing Council, comprised of our community’s affordable housing leaders, was suggested as the perfect organization to bridge these larger systemic silos. Some participants asked Kisae how they could support the Housing Council. One limiting challenge is that members of this group are housing leaders who are are totally-consumed managing their projects - often too busy to meet. Another limiting factor is the lack of funding for basic clerical support. Participants enthusiastically offered funding solutions. Stay tuned. . . .
As 1:00 approached, Kisae was asked what she would do if she had a magic wand. She immediately responded that she wants to see Dragonfly Commons succeed. Despite its current water challenges, she remains hopeful that - even without that magic wand - Dragonfly will offer home ownership for 30 residents in the very near future.
A rich conversation, we offered Kisae our heartfelt acknowledgement for her wisdom, enthusiasm, tenacity, and hard work completing a very complicated Croftonbrook as well as being one of our treasured affordable housing leaders. (Thanks, Kisae)
Do you ever wish we could respectfully discuss our differing opinions? Three leaders in our community, Darlene Gage, Ellie Parks, and Bruce Cameron spend a great deal of their energy doing just that, wearing a variety of their community hats.
Please join us Friday, April 29, 11-1 to discuss how we can bring that respect into all our conversations about those issues that mean out to us.
Due to ongoing COVID concerns, we will be Zooming at:
(Passcode: 947504, if needed.)
What would you like to ask them?
How do you ensure that respect is always a part of the conversations you lead?
What are the signs of a conversation about to become adversarial?
What role can each of us play to make sure our conversations are constructive?
What are. . . Vital Signs?
Salt Spring Insights?
Please join us to welcome Darlene, Ellie, and Bruce Friday, April 29, 11-1, via Zoom!
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