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Letters Nov. 30: Solving B.C.'s housing crisis; a world-class Island neonatal centre

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A condominium building under construction in Victoria. Letter-writers have a variety of suggestions on ways to alleviate Greater Victoria’s housing crunch. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

Plenty of housing if we act quickly

With all the current advertising about Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, it’s offered our provincial and federal governments a wonderful opportunity in Qatar.

When the World Cup of soccer is finished on Dec. 18, our government could pick up hundreds of the “container”-like accommodation units (that currently go for $200 a night), hire an empty container ship, and bring them here.

These could be used for the homeless and provide affordable housing. And at least one multibillion-dollar stadium (the one Alphonso Davies scored the one and only Canadian goal in) should be bought, since Qatar will have no use for them afterward.

Hopefully the engineers and architects built these with the planned de-construction in mind to facilitate ease of removal. Since there was seemingly no limit to expenditures, I’m convinced that the Qatar government will either donate these items to B.C. and Canada (since we are such nice people) or offer them at bargain-basement prices.

As for all super sale events, we need to immediately get at the front of the line in Qatar (set up camp) so when everything is finished, Canada can be first and not have to be door crashers.

What an opportunity! Go Canada Go!

John Vanden Heuvel

Victoria

Today’s lifeboat, tomorrow’s iceberg

Premier David Eby responds to the housing crisis in the province by demanding more homes be built post haste, ordering municipalities to facilitate his directive at the risk of being compelled by law, should they tarry.

And he sees another 100,000 people pouring over the Rockies next year. Pull out all the stops, all hands on deck.

No doubt we have a problem. If not ourselves, we all know people who struggle for reasonable, affordable accommodation.

But how does ramping up the population and building more homes, with all the requisite roads, bridges and other infrastructure, square with the other crises that have clobbered us for the past decade: The “atmospheric rivers” that wiped out several cities last year, the “heat domes” that perennially incinerate our province along with smoke that chokes us for an entire season, the intensifying droughts that dry up reservoirs on one of the wettest coasts on the planet?

Unbridled growth, both in population and consumption, may seem like the answer to today’s problem, but it is the known source of tomorrow’s disasters.

In desperation, we continue to launch lifeboats from the Titanic. Perhaps that’s necessary on a ship that’s going down.

But if we don’t have someone in the wheelhouse who’s willing to throttle back as we run full speed through the fog, and set a different course, we’re going to keep hitting icebergs.

Iain Donaldson

Parksville

Taking ‘democratic’ out of the party’s name

The B.C. government is riding roughshod over property owners’ rights.

First it was the speculation and vacancy tax basically telling people that they cannot own an unoccupied residence without penalty.

Does the government also want to control what stocks or business interests the public has a right to invest in? All British Columbia property owners are penalized every year by having to declare (online or phone in) that their property is not vacant.

Now the provincial government has decided that every B.C. strata (55-plus exempt) must remove all restrictions on rentals. One day we were told about it … the next day it was law. Strata communities no longer have control over their own environments.

They call themselves the New Democratic Party, but what’s democratic about any of this? The government places itself in jeopardy by making unreasonable demands on current voters for the supposed benefit of housing new residents.

Barbara Montgomery

Victoria

Over-densification is not the answer

Over the past five years, 7,482 units of housing have been built in Victoria. 1,348 are under construction.

Victoria is only 19 square kilometres. But at 4,406 people per square kilometre, we have a greater population density than Toronto.

We are obviously one of the municipalities that has been creating housing … lots of it. Yet there is an affordabiliity crisis.

So at what point do we admit that densification is not the answer to the housing situation in Victoria?

“Housing diversity” is being used to justify the construction of yet more unaffordable housing. Trickle-down housing, like trickle-down economics, has always been a failed vision.

Toronto has 6,000 empty condos. Little Victoria also has thousands of unoccupied dwellings. In 2016, there were 3,540, or 7.9 per cent. At last count, there were at least 3,156 Airbnb listings for Victoria. 85 per cent are entire homes.

The Airbnb effect of rising rental rates and decreased rental housing stock is well researched and documented. Victoria needs to admit that we live in a city as desirable as Paris or Barcelona, and ban unhosted short-term rentals.

There is housing available, it’s just not affordable or for the long term.

The simplistic mantra: “We will build housing” gets cheers from developers and people who naïvely think they will be able to afford it, but who will actually benefit and who will lose?

Wealthy investors have no problem buying up new units — for second homes, for tourist rentals, for parking their money and leaving empty.

But local residents will lose when rents and land values inevitably increase from this gentrification, and renters who are displaced will have to relocate to other communities.

Janet Simpson

Victoria

Neonatal intensive care was world-class at VGH

In the midst of all the doom and gloom of the state of our health care, I wanted to give a shout out to the excellent experience we had in the neonatal intensive care unit at Victoria General Hospital recently, when my grandson was born very prematurely at 24 weeks’ gestation.

He subsequently spent 106 days there before being discharged home. I can’t say enough about the dedicated nurses, doctors and other staff, and the world-class professional and compassionate care our grandson and his parents received.

It was hard to believe he could survive at that age and stage, let alone thrive and come through each complication along the way — which was dealt with promptly, expertly, with full information, explanations and collaborative decision making.

The nurses go above and beyond their professional duties, celebrating each milestone and “achievement,” writing notes from the baby to the parents, and even making Halloween costumes for all the NICU babies.

We are so fortunate and grateful that they could receive the care they needed here in their home city — which made all the difference for support from friends and family, and being able to go home at night after long days.

Since discharge, he continues to receive excellent and timely follow-up and support from the “team.”

I support the recent article and plea from a local pediatrician re supporting neonatal and pediatric care in Victoria, and have been privileged to see first-hand the difference it can make for the most vulnerable preemies and their families.

Juliette Eberhard

Mill Bay

Controlled environments better than the street

More security, more harm reduction (Naloxone, free drugs, free meals, etc.), and more mental-health outreach teams are all being suggested as steps to help curb the mental-health and addictions crisis.

This approach has been used for years and millions of dollars are being spent with the obvious outcome of more violence, more homelessness and more overdose deaths.

Do you think that perhaps we may need to be more proactive and implement strategies that will deal with the most important issues first?

The most severely affected humans living on the streets have multiple issues that cannot be resolved through superficial interventions. These folks usually have a severe mental illness, drug addiction and possible brain damage as a result of their lifestyle.

Adults with Alzheimer’s disease or other progressive dementias are placed in a safe, controlled environment where family and staff can take them into the community without fear of them getting hurt.

This type of setting is required for those on the street who cannot take care of themselves. It is contrary to their human rights to leave them on their own without societal intervention.

These folks need to be taken care of, right now. We must get them off the streets where they are indeed a danger to themselves and others. Many are repeat offenders and exhibit behaviours that are making our cities unsafe for businesses and everyone else in their neighbourhood.

They need at least a 30-day assessment to determine the severity of their condition and whether they may need continuing care in a supportive, safe setting.

All housing/treatment options need to be explored and temporary solutions created until a more comprehensive system is in place.

Supportive recovery homes, small group homes, psychiatric wards and empty hospital facilities could provide an immediate respite to help these folks be safe for themselves and for the community.

The current downstream interventions are not working and the chaos grows exponentially. We are throwing tons of dollars into the river and have little to show for it.

This is not to say we don’t have many caring non-profits doing everything possible to be helpful, but we need to always weigh the results with the time, money and outcomes to see what we need to do next and how to proceed.

Ron O’Brien

Retired mental health/addictions manager

Sooke

Choose our military over being homeless

Trying to be constructive in approaching two longstanding societal challenges.

I see a number of able-bodied homeless in our community, who in a time of crisis could be eligible to serve in our military.

I respectfully suggest that every consideration be given to staffing and housing these young Canadians during these “exceptional” times.

Peter Foran

Victoria

SEND US YOUR LETTERS

• Email letters to: letters@timescolonist.com

• Mail: Letters to the editor, Times Colonist, 201-655 Tyee Rd., Victoria, B.C. V9A 6X5

• Submissions should be no more than 250 words; subject to editing for length and clarity. Provide your contact information; it will not be published. Avoid sending your letter as an email attachment.

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