AAPC approved

After first reading, the rezoning bylaw gets referred out to many different agencies for their review. We were on the agenda of the AAPC (Agricultural Advisory Planning Commission) online meeting on August 12, 2021. After some clarification from Geordie Gordon, the Trust planner for Dragonfly, the AAPC board voted unanimously in favour of the Dragonfly rezoning application. Next up will the APC (Advisory Planning Commission) on September 16, 2021.

Email update sent out

We are excited to announce that Dragonfly Commons, after a long period of hibernation, is finally starting to make significant progress on our affordable housing project.  It has been a dispiritingly slow couple of years but things have really started to happen, as you will see from the contents of this update.  

After having been in FLNRORD limbo/hell for many years…for those of you who do not know, that is Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development.  And yes, they are as slow as their name is long.  They have finally granted us a Water Licence to use the water from the two high-yield wells on our property for our project.

However, and there is always a “however” in the affordable housing world, a Water Licence only constitutes part of the solution to developing the water system.  The other part involves becoming a Private Water Utility which is a very onerous and expensive process, beyond the means of affordable housing projects.  

Luckily North Salt Spring Waterworks District, NSSWD, has stepped up to the plate and as a result we have a way forward.  By partnering with NSSWD,  we can avoid having to become a Private Water Utility.  Unfortunately in order for NSSWD to own our water system, they need to update their protocols and bylaws, and there is a significant cost for them to do so and Dragonfly needs to bear this cost.  

Fortunately we have a potential solution to that problem as well.  We are  applying for a CMHC grant program entitled “CMHC Housing Supply Challenge” with NSSWD as a very supportive sub-applicant. The first stage of the grant will award up to $75,000 to 30 applicants from across the country. These funds are to be used over a 6-month period for pre-development costs and will pay for NSSWD to develop their bylaws and protocols so as to be able to own Dragonfly’s water system. In addition, the 30 successful applicants will have access to a pool of 38 million dollars to be used over a two-year period for development costs. We will find out sometime in October whether we are successful with our grant application.  This grant is a potential game-changer for Dragonfly Commons, NSSWD and affordable housing on the island.  

Having our Water Licence has also meant that we were in a position to enter  into discussions with the Islands Trust and the planning department to find the best possible way to proceed with our rezoning application.  It was agreed that changing our application from a bare-land strata to a “building strata” would streamline and expedite matters by allowing the decision-making process to remain local in the hands of our very supportive Local Trust Committee instead of the very indifferent MOTI, Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.

We are pleased to announce that this newly-revised rezoning bylaw passed First Reading with flying colours, on July 27th at the LTC meeting. This is a big step and provides momentum to continue our work on this project. We would like to thank our planners Geordie Gordon and Stefan Cermak for their work and Trustees Laura Patrick and Peter Grove for their ongoing enthusiastic support, it means a lot to us.  The project will now be referred out to various agencies and First Nations groups.

One final piece of exciting news is that we are in the news and also are the news.  On July 3rd, 2021, Capital Daily, an innovative and increasingly popular online news site, published an extensive exposé about the affordable housing crisis on Salt Spring, detailing how the inability of housing projects to set up water systems is the primary barrier to affordable housing on the island. Dragonfly Commons efforts to resolve this issue are prominently featured in the article, as are our board members Kisae Petersen and her work with IWAV’s Croftonbrook project as well as Rhonan’s Heitzmann’s efforts to alleviate the housing crisis on the island working with the advocacy group Salt Spring Solutions.  

https://www.capitaldaily.ca/news/salt-spring-islands-duelling-crises

In conclusion, we want to thank our dedicated Board of Directors for their hard work and never say die attitude.  We appreciate your positive attitude and enthusiasm.  Shout out to Kisae Petersen, Robin Williams, Ron Cooke and Rhonan Heitzmann.

Tami and Fernando Dos Santos

p.s. if you know of anyone who would like to be added to this email list, please let us know at dragonflycommons at gmail dot com

Capital Daily article “Salt Spring Island’s Duelling Crises”

On July 3rd, 2021, Capital Daily, a Victoria-based online publication published an extensive exposé about the affordable housing crisis on Salt Spring, detailing how the inability of housing projects to set up water systems is the primary barrier to affordable housing on the island. Dragonfly Commons efforts to resolve this issue are prominently featured in the article, as are our board members Kisae Petersen and her work with IWAV’s Croftonbrook project as well as Rhonan’s Heitzmann’s efforts to alleviate the housing crisis on the island. https://www.capitaldaily.ca/news/salt-spring-islands-duelling-crises

Grant application

We have further exciting news that, in addition to finally getting our water licence, we have a possible way forward to develop our water system by partnering with NSSWD, North Salt Spring Water District. Unfortunately there is a significant cost to doing so, but we have a potential solution to that problem by applying for a CMHC grant program entitled
“CMHC Housing Supply Challenge” with NSSWD as a very supportive sub-applicant. The first stage of the grant will award up to $75,000 to 30 applicants from across the country. These funds are to be used over a 6-month period for pre-development costs and will assist NSSWD to develop their bylaws and protocols so as to be able to own Dragonfly’s water system. In addition, the 30 successful applicants will have access to a pool of 38 million dollars to be used over a two-year period for development costs. We will find out sometime in October whether we are successful with our grant application and, if so, we are hoping to move our project forward quite quickly after that.

First reading passed – again

We are pleased to announce that the Local Trust Committee passed the First Reading of our newly-revised rezoning bylaw July 27th at the LTC meeting. This is a big step and provides momentum to continue our work on building this project. We would like to thank our planner Geordie Gordon for his work and the trustees Laura Patrick and Peter Grove for their ongoing support and interest. The project will now be referred out to various agencies and First Nations groups to have a look at our rezoning request. This change in bylaw is important because it streamlines our rezoning process – instead of moving forward as a bare-land strata, we will now be moving forward as a “building strata”. In addition to expediting matters, this allows for the decision-making process to remain local in the hands of the Local Trust Committee instead of MOTI, Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.

Changing back to home ownership

Upon further examination and numerous discussion with BC Housing and other government agencies it has become abundantly clear that it is not economically feasible for us to build an affordable rental project. This is partly due to the insufficient funding provided by BC Housing and the rising cost of construction. This is a problem that is being reflected province-wide and in fact nation-wide. The BC government proposed to build 40,000 new homes and has in fact has only been able to deliver a few thousand of that number. As a result, we have decided to go back to affordable home ownership, even though that is going to be difficult, at least it appears possible. We are working hard on overcoming the barriers – of which being able to provide water to the project is the main one.

Well Water License granted

As of April, 2021, the Provincial department FLNRO, Forests, Lands and Natural Resources, granted Dragonfly Commons a Groundwater License for the use of our well-water for 30 homes. After an exhaustive amount of research and water studies by FLNRO and two hydrogeologists, it was determined that the amount of water needed is amply supplied by our two wells, and, at that usage, there would be no impact on the neighbouring wells, nor on the aquifer. We had to stop this housing project because the Water Licensing process took four years, rather than the two year time-frame that we had anticipated. These are the types of delays and complications that make affordable housing so difficult to accomplish.

Dragonfly Commons – changing from home ownership to rental

It has been a busy month working to create affordable housing on Salt Spring.

After a year of exploring what is required to put a water system in place for Dragonfly Commons, we have come to the conclusion that we cannot continue on the path we are on.  We find it necessary to change the model of Dragonfly Commons from home ownership to rental.
The Water Sustainability Act which was instituted in 2016 makes it virtually impossible to create a subdivision in a rural area where there is not a Water Utility in place to supply water.  Unfortunately due to the moratorium on new hook ups imposed by North Salt Spring Waterworks, we fall into that category.
The Act, administered by FLNRO, requires that any new subdivision with more than three owners from a single water source must operate as a Water Utility or a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN) .  The requirements to become a CPCN are extremely onerous, starting with a deposit of $500,000 – $2,000,000 and continuing with extremely demanding as well as expensive management and reporting requirements.
These are the same requirements that a water system supplying a city such as Vancouver or Victoria would be expected to meet.  They are currently treating four hook ups the same as four million with no flexibility.  It is likely that in the future this will change but for the foreseeable future our project and other small projects trying to produce affordable home-ownership are quashed.
Fortunately we do have an alternative – and that is to go from home ownership to rental.  This will allow us to avoid the CPCN requirements because, even though there would be 30 homes, they would be owned by one entity.  There are still water challenges to overcome but we feel they are manageable.
Even though we are sad to abandon the idea of affordable home ownership for workers there are advantages to pursuing affordable workforce rental accommodations.  First of all, they are needed every bit as much and secondly, there are far more grants available which will mean that they will be even more affordable.  Another advantage is that the homes would be a secure long-term rental situation, without the worry of a landlord selling.  Finally there is the advantage of not requiring to subdivide the property which should speed things up.
With this change and the support that we are receiving from the Islands Trust we feel that it is not unreasonable to be able to commence construction in the spring of 2019.
Tami and Fernando Dos Santos

on behalf of Dragonfly Commons Housing Society