Sleeping woman's face seen in the rear view mirror of a car

Potentially More than 1200 ‘housing unstable’ in the SRD

There may be more than 1,200 ‘housing unstable’ people in the Strathcona Regional District. 

This figure arises from a statement Emma Wallace, of the Rural Development Network, made when she released the comments from the ‘Collecting Stories of Where you Live’ data collection project.

Wallace’s organization was commissioned by the Campbell River & District Coalition to End Homelessness (CRDCEH) and the Urban Indigenous Housing and Wellness Coalition (UIHWC) to conduct the housing and service needs estimation in the Strathcona Regional District earlier this year. The ‘stories’ her organization collected were written responses to the housing needs survey.

Affordable housing NOW! – by fumigene via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)
The Strathcona Regional District – courtesy SRD website

Wallace spoke at the Thursday, October 6 meeting of the Campbell River and District Coalition to End Homelessness

“We identified 427 surveys that were suitable for analysis and that is  the focus of this report and today’s presentation,” said Wallace.

311 of these responses came from ‘housing unstable’ people and, after you add in their spouses and dependents, the number of people known to be in ‘unstable conditions’ rose to 801.

“It’s really important here to emphasize or remind folks that there are likely many more people experiencing homelessness in the region,” said Wallace.

Respondents within the SRD (+ spouses and dependents = 801) – Collecting Stories of Where You Live: A Strathcona Regional District Housing & Service Needs Estimation

Cortes Currents asked,”Do you have any idea of how widespread the problem really is?” 

Wallace responded, “What we often say is that we likely have captured 65% of the folks who are experiencing homelessness in an area.”    

That works out to 1235, but as this is a guesstimate it is probably more accurate to say there could be more than 1200. 

The regions highlighted in the Rural Development Network report are: 

  • Campbell River, We Wai Kai (Quinsam), Wei Wai Kum First Nation, SRD Area D 
  • Cortes Island and Klahoose First Nation 
  • Quadra Island and the Outer Islands 
  • Gold River, Tahsis, Tsaxana and Sayward 

The top five reasons for housing instability were:

  • an inability to afford rent or mortgage payments
  • low wages
  • housing needs major repairs
  • increasing rent prices
  • illness or medical conditions

One of the survey’s most shocking findings is that 65% of the ‘unstable respondents’ are employed.

In addition:

  • 107 people don’t have heat in their home. 
  • 55 lack indoor plumbing. 
  • And 37 don’t have access to safe drinking water.
Quadra Island and the Outer Islands – Collecting Stories of Where You Live: A Strathcona Regional District Housing & Service Needs Estimation
Income levels on Quadra and the Outer Islands – Collecting Stories of Where You Live

“One of  the more troubling findings in the report is the number of people who reported hitchhiking to access services because  there’s a lack of  public transportation between communities and a lack of available services in each individual community. Obviously this is a super high risk behavior.  It’s really putting folks at risk and it’s a major barrier to their ability to access services. All of this combined really suggests a need to advocate for accessible and affordable community services across Strathcona Regional District,” said Wallace.

Some of the ‘unstable’ respondents are home owners, but both stable and unstable property owners indicated that changes to land zoning options would encourage them to have a secondary suite or a separate dwelling on their property.

  • 236 respondents stated they would like to see more housing options available, like tiny homes, dock parks, mobile parks.
  • 218 respondents support the implementation of an empty house tax for property owners who allow their units to sit unoccupied in the off season.

Mark Vonesch, the acclaimed Regional Director of Cortes Island, spoke during the question period:

“There’s a lot of  things that we can do that aren’t taxing our local electorate. I think there’s a lot of people in this area that don’t want their taxes raised, but the question is how can we increase taxes to the tourists that are visiting us and contributing to some of the housing challenges we have. And also looking at some of the wealthier folks that are purchasing $10 million homes and could easily afford a change in property tax rates. A lot of these things are provincial controlled.  How can we all work together and do this advocacy work that is going to bring in funding to address the challenge.”

Cortes Island and T’oq (Klahoose First Nation) – Collecting Stories of Where You Live
Income levels on Cortes – Collecting Stories of Where You Live

Wallace said that most of the responding owners were willing to have a secondary dwelling, or a mobile home, on their property providing they received either rezoning or government funding. 

The highest responses around how to stabilize the housing situation focused on an empty house tax. 

As she does not live in the SRD, Wallace said she cannot speak to some of Vonesch’s more tax related questions.

Links of Interest

Top image credit: Woman sleeping in a car by Dan Brickley via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)

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