Kaslo Housing Society Regroups, Reframes and diversifies
Just about every week you hear about the housing crisis in Vancouver or Toronto, but it’s here now too. Young workers, families, seniors – every demographic is affected. Kaslo people see social media posts, notes on local bulletin boards, and ads in the paper all the time from people looking for help to find shelter. Businesses have been forced to reduce hours – their employees found that when they arrived to work for the summer season they could not stay for lack of a place to live. Kaslo has a housing society. What have they been doing?
Given current circumstances, the Kaslo Housing Society (KHS) is doing what they can – using multiple strategies and new knowledge bases to get closer to solutions. In the spring they came as a delegation to Kaslo Council to ask for title, or a long- term lease, on municipal land located on the south side of the river near the new Unity bridge. Since the village, with the aid of consultants, was in the process of assessing all its real estate holdings, KHS was told to wait. KHS did meet with the consultants in July and found them very receptive to their ideas about the potential of using municipal land to leverage the building of affordable housing in Kaslo.
8-10 years ago, the Kaslo Housing Society worked extremely hard towards developing the riverside site – a substantial building project housing 20-40 family units was envisioned, designed and ultimately abandoned because of the enormous cost.
The current board is looking at a scaled-down plan which would be developed in phases. The initial phase would include a lodge with 15 affordable micro-apartments, a common area with a kitchen, and an apartment for a live-in manager – all built around a courtyard. If this project is successful, a handful of two bedroom cottages for families could be added as phase 2. Or by then it might be feasible to encourage a pocket neighbourhood of tiny homes. The KHS Board is also engaged in reviewing and advocating for the revision of by-laws and policies which stand in the way of smaller dwellings being created.
At the September conference of the Union of BC Municipalities, Kaslo’s mayor Suzan Hewat, with the support of the RDCK Director Aimee Watson, will be meeting with the provincial minister responsible for housing, Selina Robertson. On record will be a document prepared by the housing society and ably edited and amplified by Kaslo’s CAO, Neil Smith. The ministerial brief, in short, is a request that the province 1) review and revise legislation (BC Building Code etc.) and policies which stand in the way of smaller dwellings being created. 2) Offer incentives to all sectors so that new rental units will be built, including tax breaks and supporting and seed-funding land trusts 3) to enter into a dialogue with the Village of Kaslo and the Regional District with the intent of supporting a regional Housing Co-ordinator position.
A priority for the housing society has been networking and the building of partnerships:
•At our AGM in March- we hosted a discussion on types of housing solutions.
•RDCK and Economic Development Commission. Board chair, Erika Bird recently presented to the EDC, and we maintain ongoing communication with RDCK Area D Director Aimee Watson, who has expressed her support in many ways.
•Village of Kaslo. We have ongoing dialogue with our current village council and busy administrative office about housing related policies.
•CTQ. This consulting firm met with us to hear our ideas and plans in July. They are advising Kaslo council on how to utilize its land holdings.
•The B.C. Rural Centre responded by sending Gordon Borgstrom to Kaslo when we asked for an introduction to community managed investment strategies.
•Kaslo & Area Chamber of Commerce. Erika Bird has been a delegation to the Chamber and the chamber hosted the public information meeting about community investments.
•CBT- Whenever we get ideas coagulating, CBT’s Kelvin Saldern is there to advise us of how to move forward.
•ABCD- Formed by Stephanie Judy and David Stewart after the Keeping it Rural conference. This group was formed in Kaslo to address important issues locally. They have expressed interest in helping advance our projects.
•We keep in touch always with the other housing society in Kaslo, the Senior Shelter Society which manages Abbey Manor. John Eckland of the Kaslo Hotel consulted with us about creating employee housing. We also met with a private investor who expressed an interest in investing in a social enterprise promoting attainable housing in Kaslo.
•We have completed a survey of landlord/tenant experiences and have mapped housing data. Both of these efforts will lead to the kind of information funders always ask for before considering any housing project.
•From others in our community (thank you al!), from our own research and from going to conferences like Keeping it Rural we have learned volumes about funding formulas, septic systems, air pump heating, grey water and composting toilets and building codes.
•The Kaslo Quilters are creating a house image quilt in honour of Canada 150, named “A Home for Everyone Quilt”. It will be unveiled at an event in December.
• Kaslo Jazz Etc.- Working together with us to create happy campers at lovers campsite.
•The Housing Society organized the Winter in the Forest Festival, which was sponsored by the Kaslo & District Community Forest Society.
We welcome your input, ideas and support. You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. And let your politicians know how important it is to be able to provide affordable housing for all of our community members. See MP Wayne Stetski’s online petition re bill C-325 at email@example.com.