The world is going through some pretty fundamental changes these days.
It’s kind of inevitable at this point. We are at the mercy of things well beyond our control, and for a while now we’ve been kind of scrambling to keep up to all these big shifts. These changes include high gas prices, food prices going up, an unpredictable climate that is prone to disaster, shifting industries, a growing and aging population to a housing crisis that seems to have no end, all of which were pretty unpredictable even a few years ago.
It seems we have two choices: either we continue as we have been: hoping that things go back to “normal” and that we don’t have to make any difficult choices, or we embrace the fact that things are changing and try to steer the changes in a direction that benefits the majority of us.
Take, for example, the idea to create a group in Campbell River dedicated to advocating for more dense and diverse housing. The YIMBY (Yes in my back yard — as opposed to NIMBY or Not in my back yard) idea is to show decision makers that there is an appetite for beneficial change within the community. The group — which is just an idea at this point — will discuss just what kind of housing developments they’ll support, then help promote the idea and show how things that are new can actually be beneficial if given the chance. They’ll even show up to public hearings to make the case for the development.
I love this, because I know we can’t go back to the way things have been. We don’t have the space, capacity or ability to keep building single family homes, separated from amenities by kilometres of high speed roads. The city has said that there would be an Official Community Plan update next year, which gives us a chance to really shape the community into what we want it to be.
I would love to see more diversity in housing. There are so many options that are not strictly one family owning one home. That may work for some people but it is unattainable and not sustainable for many people and families in our region. Tiny home zoning could be a great idea, for example, as could something like the Creekside Commons Cohousing Community in Courtenay. Housing co-operatives also would provide options. Secondary suites, apartment buildings where some units are rentals, others are for ownership, even boarding houses could all be brought in to help ease the housing burden.
This idea doesn’t have to just be for housing either. With gas prices getting higher and higher, it’s getting harder to get around. Campbell River is a very long city, over 20 km. Going from one end to the other takes between 19 and 25 minutes (according to Google. I know many people can do it in a lot less time). However, it’s only about 5 km wide, depending on where you measure. We shouldn’t have to drive 20 minutes to get groceries (again, Google says a trip from southern Campbell River to Walmart is about 20 minutes, depending on the route).
To fix this, we could allow for more comprehensive zoning in the downtown core, letting people live near the amenities they need to visit every day. That combined with a few separated bike lanes and some better transit and traffic calming, and people would probably even save their cars for longer out-of-town trips. When gas is $2/L we could all stand to drive a bit less.
This is a big year, we have a municipal election coming up, Campbell River’s OCP update is on the horizon, and we have a chance to really consider how we respond to these big changes. We could keep hoping and pretending that things are going back to an idealized version of “normal,” which really means that we’ll keep reacting to changes in a short sighted and unconsidered way. We do have another option: we could come together, really think about what we want the community to be, without having to rely on what’s been done in the past. There are so many options out there, many ways of doing things. We don’t have to keep up a status quo just because that’s what we’ve always done.
Making a community that benefits everyone is not impossible. It’s actually quite easy, as long as there is willingness to make it happen.
Change is coming, like it or not. Instead of hiding and hoping it goes away, let’s embrace it.
Campbell RiverColumnistHousing and HomelessnessHousing crisis