Addressing workforce housing on Salt Spring Island

Oct 4, 2018 | 41-3, Blog, Governance, Statement, Video

I welcomed leaders of the Salt Spring Island Chamber of Commerce into the Legislature to discuss workforce housing challenges on the Island.

Addressing this critical issue is just one part of the complex housing and community sustainability challenges facing rural, remote and coastal communities, especially on the Gulf Islands.

Housing for service workers, seniors, low income, homeless are all needed.

As I mention in the statement regulating short term vacation rentals is just one small part of the solution. Building new homes across the housing spectrum, refurbishing and repurposing existing homes, addressing issues with water all must be solved as well.

The conversations continue…


It’s been more than 16 months since the 2017 election. In some respects, I’m finally feeling like I’m not a foreigner in parts of my riding.

Despite living my entire life in Saanich North and the Islands and regularly visiting my Gulf Island relatives, I did not have the benefit of truly understanding the communities of the Salish Sea. These complex communities are beautiful, creative, vibrant and unique. It’s what draws us to them.

Scratching the surface

Unpacking the social, economic and cultural intricacies of the Gulf Islands has not been easy, and we’ve still only scratched the surface. The decisions that governments make are amplified on the Gulf Islands, and it has certainly been true for issues like the speculation tax, short-term vacation rentals and fixed-term leases. Today I’m having lunch with the leadership of the Salt Spring Island Chamber of Commerce, and we are continuing our conversation about how the housing shortage is affecting business in the community.

Workforce housing has been an ongoing concern on the Saanich Peninsula since at least the 2008 election. It was a ballot box question then, and it’s still a ballot box question ten years later. Workforce housing on Saltspring is also a growing challenge and is affecting quality of life on the island.

Workforce housing

To give an indication of what we’re facing on Saltspring, I met with a business owner who, for the first 30 minutes of the meeting, was strongly advocating for the strict regulation of short-term vacation rentals. They cannot staff their business because their staff cannot find housing. But the conversation changed when I asked who their customers were and where they stay. The business relies mainly on tourists who stay in short-term vacation rentals.

It’s just one example of the challenges and why conversations like the one we’re having today with the chamber and other groups — the community services and the upcoming discussion with Salt Spring Solutions — are so critical.

Despite the lack of certainty in so many areas, one thing is certain. There are incredible people taking the struggle head-on, and for that I am grateful. I raise my hands to the effort and look forward to continuing to work alongside you.


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