Newly elected Gabriola Island political representatives plan to address homelessness and revise the official community plan during their term.
Susan Yates and Tobi Elliott were voted onto the Islands Trust board in the municipal election earlier this month, representing an area that includes Gabriola, DeCourcy, Link and Mudge islands.
Elliott, a first-time trustee, has experience with the trust’s housing advisory planning commission and said a strategic plan on housing and the environment has always been lacking. The trust has an official community plan and the approach has been single-family dwellings on larger acreages to protect against over-development, she said, but that only works if the market isn’t “exploding,” as it has over the last two years.
“Suddenly, all that gets filled in and houses that were previously rented accommodations now are no longer available … we just don’t have the flexibility in our OCP for different types and forms of housing and so a single solution doesn’t fit all the demographics and we’re seeing that right now,” she said. “We’re overdue for an OCP review and that would address a lot of the housing shortages that we’ve seen.”
Yates was a trustee 30 years ago, and said there is much more development pressure now and real pressure for affordable housing. Addressing this is seemingly at odds with the trust’s “preserve and protect” mandate and additionally, housing isn’t really part of that mandate, she said.
“Trust council sent four really good resolutions to the provincial government at their last council meeting; they pretty much went through unanimously,” said Yates. “What I’m hoping for is a response from the province to help the entire trust area with affordable housing. We cannot do it on our own.”
The last OCP revision was done during Yates’s first term and like Elliott, she favours a re-examination.
“[We] have to make a really good case to council to say, ‘Look, our OCP is 30 years out of date,” said Yates. “Next to Salt Spring, I think we’re the fastest-growing island, population wise, and the pressures are huge to get a revised OCP. It can be done piecemeal, we could just look at how can we be really resourceful, creative, flexible with regard to what we want to see for affordable housing … Everyone deserves a good, solid place to live. Otherwise, how do they contribute to the community? They just can’t.”
A total of six candidates ran to represent Gabriola Island, with Yates and Elliott garnering 749 and 662 votes respectively. Lisa Webster received 515 votes, Erik Johnson 309, Wendy Kotorynski 219 and Wayne Mercier 203.
Yates and Elliott will be sworn in on Thursday, Nov. 17.
In other local government election news, Vanessa Craig was acclaimed as Gabriola Island area director for the Regional District of Nanaimo board.