Man with baseball cap pulled over his eyes sleeping in the front seat of a car

Mark Vonesch 6: Housing, The number one issue in this election

The Electoral Areas Housing Needs Report identified an immediate demand for 75 rental and 40 retail units on Cortes Island. 

In a previous interview, Mark Vonesch from the Cortes Community Housing Society, said, “I hear stories of people having to quit their jobs because they can’t find housing for the summer. I know people that are living under a tarp. I know seniors that are living in a tent.”  

However a quick scan of the real estate pages turns up  three homes, for between $890,000 and $2.7 million, and it will probably be at least a year before Cortes Island’s affordable housing development will be ready. When Rainbow Ridge finally does accept tenants, it will meet a little more than a quarter of the current rental need.  

In the last of a series of articles about his running for Regional Director, Vonesch talks about affordable housing.

“The number one issue that I hear from people across the political spectrum is housing. It’s affecting every business on this island. I think we all know somebody who’s struggling with housing, who’s losing their housing, who has unstable housing. The fact that this is something that everyone’s concerned about gives me hope that we can come together and find solutions around it,” he explained.

“I’ve spent the last six or eight months working with the Cortes Housing Society, helping develop and distribute a Regional Housing Survey that has provided a lot of information and statistics that I think are going to help us take action on the issue. Give us a better understanding of the problem and see our ability to find the common ground in the potential solutions.”

He cited some key statistics from the Housing Survey: 

  • 18% of all residents in the Strathcona Regional District (SRD) are renters. Many play key roles in our local economy.
  • 41% of those renters pay more than they can afford for accommodation.
  • Roughly 100 dwellings are being used for short term rentals and twice that number of houses sit vacant most of the year.

Vonesch does not believe vacation rentals are the problem, “A lot of people rely on short term rentals as a way for them to have a meaningful life here and to pay their bills and mortgage and as an income for themselves.”

The next Regional Director’s options are limited. The most effective thing the SRD can do is advocate, with the federal and provincial governments, for more non-market housing.

Vonesch suggests, “The fastest way to get new housing on Cortes, and the cheapest way, is to look at the unused housing that’s already here.”

The problem is that while rentals do not bring in a huge amount of income, many owners are afraid of tenants who either do not pay the rent or trash their homes. 

“I’m Interested in finding ways that we can alleviate some of that risk for the homeowner so that they’re more willing to rent their homes. That’s something that can be done without, regional district approval. It can be done quickly,” said Vonesch. “ It’s not the only solution, but I think it’s part of the solution. The answer is a multitude of things done in a strategic, smart, sensible way.”

Top image credit: Sleeping in his car – Photo by karlnorling via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)

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