More than a dozen non-profit housing providers from Vancouver Island are collaborating amid a housing crisis, releasing a list of calls to action as municipal elections loom.
Under the banner of Vancouver Island Housing Leadership Network (VIHLN), the fourteen organizations oversee more than 6,000 housing units across the Island, with another 1,000 units in pre-development or under construction.
According to Corrine Saad, executive director of Gorge View Society, the housing crisis in B.C. is dire and comes in the middle of “some very important local elections.”
“Municipalities must be active participants in facilitating the construction of purpose-built affordable and supportive housing and retention of that affordability, while working with non-profits to ensure the right level of support is accessible to all where and when they need it,” Saad said.
On Thursday, the VIHLN shared six calls to action, including establishing a “housing centre” to facilitate and speed up the approval of affordable and supportive housing.
Other calls to action include allowing access to municipal land for new housing developments, implementing financial exemptions for non-profit developers, and collaborating with organizations, including health authorities, to ensure support is available to those in crisis.
Another call, speeding up approval processes for housing projects, has already been implemented in some municipalities like Victoria. In April, the capital city became the first municipality in B.C. to approve an accelerated process for affordable housing city-wide.
The VIHLN is also asking local governments to utilize its expertise to better understand current complex housing challenges and, in turn, advocate more effectively at provincial and federal levels.
Carolina Ibarra, CEO of Pacifica Housing, says the non-profits are calling on all candidates for municipal office to consider these calls in their platforms.
“We need everyone to work together to be successful — this issue is far too important to get lost in the usual fray of local politics,” Ibarra said.
A survey conducted in June by Research Co. indicated housing, homelessness and poverty as the dominant issues for British Columbians, regardless of where in the province they live.
More recently, Statistics Canada data published Thursday from the 2021 census says B.C. is the most unaffordable province for housing in the country, due largely to the number of people paying high rents to live in urban centres.