Supported housing project moving ahead on Salt Spring Island

Jan 21, 2022 | Blog, Governance, MLA Column, Well-being | 0 comments

Housing projects are moving ahead on Salt Spring Island! It feels good to be able to publish those words.

Minister David Eby, BC Housing and the Capital Regional District announced a partnership to develop a project that includes permanent individual supported housing and shelter spaces on a CRD owned site located on Drake Road. The project will be managed by Salt Spring Community Services.

Tension has been increasing on the Island since last Fall when the Seabreeze Motel was listed for sale. Rooms at the motel were leased as part of a temporary housing initiative in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. With housing in short supply there was fear that the tenants would potentially be displaced with the sale.

Last summer Rob Grant, Executive Director of Salt Spring Community Services, raised this situation with CRD Director Gary Holman and me. We met several times in the ensuing months with senior staff and management at BC Housing, as well as Minister Eby, and proposed that the motel be purchased and renovated to provide permanent supported housing.

For years we have been discussing a purpose-built supported housing project on the CRD land on Drake Road. Purpose-built has always been the desired option of the provincial government over purchasing a motel, however up until recently movement has been slow.

As the Lady Minto Hospital Foundation was also looking for solutions to a housing shortage impacting their health care professionals, they purchased the Seabreeze, expediting the need for the supported housing project.

It has been difficult to hear the fears in the community be raised while these discussions have been happening in the background. All we could say was that we were working on a solution. Even though I was encouraged by how all the people at the table were motivated to overcome the challenge, there was always the prospect that no solution might be found. This announcement is the culmination of that concerted effort.

Last Fall, when I spoke with Minister David Eby about the situation on Salt Spring, I was encouraged that he understood the challenges. He gave me confidence that he was willing to push through them.

For months, we have seen the commitment of BC Housing to be at the table. While they were not supportive of purchasing the motel, they were actively looking to create a positive outcome for Salt Spring. Thank you, Malcolm McNaughton and Heidi Hartman.

I am grateful to my friend and colleague CRD Director Gary Holman. We have had many discussions about this situation over the past year and I am thankful that Gary has been such a strong advocate for the Island, and a fully engaged partner at the table. Together, we have been focused on ensuring that Salt Spring has stable supported housing for the people who need it, in addition to workforce housing for essential health care workers.

My hands are raised to Rob Grant and Salt Spring Community Services. This has been a difficult and drawn-out process. Rob is a powerful advocate for Salt Spring Island. He can be counted on to elevate the needs of the community and he tirelessly works on the solutions. I am thankful for all the services Rob and his team provide Salt Spring and I am thrilled they will be managing this project as well.

Thank you to the Lady Minto Hospital Foundation. There are a variety of housing needs on Salt Spring. The Foundation has been active in not only improving the Lady Minto Hospital facilities and equipment, but also in accommodating the essential hospital staff. While their purchase of the motel increased the tension on these issues, I am thankful that the Foundation is a partner in minimizing the disruption for the tenants of motel.

There is still a long way to go, and a lot more work ahead. While I and my team kept this issue on the table, hosting meetings and keeping focus on the issues, I am thankful for all the people who helped keep this process moving over the months. While I did not get a chance to acknowledge every one of you here, your contribution was critical to this positive step forward.

Despite the commitment of everyone to minimize disruption to the greatest extent possible, there will be disruption in the coming months, and I will always work with my elected colleagues, government, and community agencies, to keeping disruption to a minimum.

BC Housing has created a community portal with information about the project on Drake Road, and a place that you can provide your feedback. Please visit the site and share your thoughts.

If you have any other questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me at Adam.Olsen.MLA@leg.bc.ca or 250-655-5600.

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