Letter: what happened to the housing campaign promises?

Gini Grey responds to the Mayor's Standing Committee on the Community Lands recommendations on the Lot 3 allotments.

Dear Editor:

I’m feeling very disheartened and angry after reading the article on Lot 3 projects’ land changes in last week’s Undercurrent. To read that the municipal council is backtracking on its agreement to offer .48 hectares of Lot 3 to Bowen Island Resilient Community Housing for affordable housing and is now only offering .11 hectares on a portion that is too difficult to build on is appalling from my point of view. 

I have lived in this community for over 20 years and have watched people struggle to pay mortgages and rent as prices continually rise. I’ve seen so many people have to move away from their beloved community because they can’t afford to live here. I watched my husband, Richard Best, volunteer countless hours to this cause as a board member on the Bowen Community Housing Association from 2006 to 2011 and as the lead organizer for the Run for the Ferry event for four years in a row. Over $40,000 was raised for a needs assessment and housing strategy survey and for a symposium on affordable housing for a diverse community.

During that time the municipal council promised a piece of the surplus lands for affordable housing, but it never came to fruition. Now here we are many years later with an even more challenging housing problem and council is once again putting the issue on the back burner.

What happened to all the council candidate’s speeches about making housing a priority? What happened to putting promises into action? For Mayor Ander to say “We’re not really prepared to give up all of Lot 3 for housing” and then to add, “There’s value in this property and we can’t just give it away” is so short sighted. If the property is sold down the road, what will the money go towards, besides paying off the long term debt? Can’t mayor and council see the value in having affordable housing? What will our community be like down the road if young families can’t afford homes and young adults who work in the stores, restaurants and other service industries on Bowen can’t afford to live here? What will happen to our charitable events when volunteers are not available because they have to work so hard to pay rent that there is no time to volunteer? What will our Bowen culture become if artists can’t afford to live here? What will happen to the diversity we cherish in this community? You can’t put a price on that!

If according to Mayor Ander, “the committee is willing to consider leasing a similar amount of land on a different lot,” then why has this not been offered, but only considered? The amount of land being offered for the health center on Lot 3 has also been reduced. Isn’t there a way these two important buildings could be put together – health center on the ground level, with two stories above for affordable housing? 

The article in last week’s Undercurrent mentioned that “the previous council resolutions to enter into lease agreements with the Health Centre Foundation and BIRCH are still on the books and have yet to be rescinded.” 

I urge council to give this more thought and compare the value of the land to the value of community before fully rescinding their offer, or to at least make a better offer than what the committee proposed. Please honour your commitment to serve the community.

—Gini Grey

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