The ‘missing middle’

LETTERS

Filed for publication with the Mirror

To Mayor & Council, Deborah Sargent, Ron Neufeld, Amber Zirnhelt, the Planning Department, Peter Wipper, and the Development Services Department,

There is no question that there have been great strides in the last 36 months in adding apartments, condominiums, single family dwellings both detached and semi-detached as well as supportive housing to the city’s inventory. The work that has been done has been exemplary and each of you should be applauded for your efforts.

The collaboration with BC Housing and Vancouver Island Mental Health Society in the creation and operation of the supportive housing at the Rosebowl and Qwaxsem Place has been immensely appreciated and has indeed made a positive difference, especially to those who now have a place to call home. And while there is more work to be done in this area, this letter is about “The Missing Middle” as this has now become a full blown crisis and needs your immediate attention. During the May 31st council meeting, Mayor and Council received a letter from the Coalition to End Homelessness — comprised of 19 community organizations — the coalition was referred to as a “squeaky wheel,” the letter was quickly dismissed and not recommended to be shared with staff in spite of valid and thoughtful suggestions and solutions that would address “The Missing Middle” housing crisis.

We have employers in every industry, every field of work, every sector — including the city — who are struggling to hire employees to fill vacant positions, all because the potential employee cannot find a place to live. There are simply no affordable or available housing for those in the middle income range. This is now affecting the economy of our city and it is worsening every day there is no solution.

One only has to search for “Secondary Suites” on the Campbell River Mirror website to quickly discover this has been an ongoing discussion since 2010. The incredibly disappointing part is that it is still a discussion with no resolution in sight. Secondary suites are the one segment of housing development that is woefully underutilized and underdeveloped. The simplest, and most straight forward solution to the missing middle is to broaden the development of secondary suites and simplify the process. Asking a homeowner to go through an approximately six-month process for rezoning that costs $2,625 is a barrier — and, in the end, may not be successful.

Some homeowners are choosing to not go through this process, constructing the suite anyway, putting both the homeowner and the tenant in a precarious situation.

Council received a fullsome, comprehensive report on secondary suites in October of 2019 that included a wide ranging public consultation report where 72 per cent of the participants support secondary suite development throughout our city. And yet, here we are 18 months later, no bylaw adjustments, no rezoning adjustments and we await yet another report. This is one reason why you received a thoughtful, discerning letter from a coalition comprised of 19 community organizations who are working and engaged with every segment of our community. Their letter made valid suggestions that could be implemented in short order and would begin to alleviate the housing crisis in the missing middle now impacting our economy.

And, in conversation with local realtors, potential homeowners are regularly seeking homes with legal secondary suites as they provide additional housing for their extended family if needed and at the very least an additional source of income which is helpful to young families just starting out as well as retirees on fixed incomes.

The Campbell River & District Chamber of Commerce respectfully ask Mayor & Council the following:

– Reconsider the Report/Recommendation to Council dated December 4, 2019 File No. 6700-30-ZoningBylawReview

– Reconsider the Public Consultation Results, Zoning Amendment Bylaw No. 3742, 2019 – Secondary Suites dated October 22, 2019

– Reconsider the recommendations made in the letter received May 31st from the Coalition to End Homelessness (We are one of the member organizations)

– Request recommendations from staff to broaden the development of secondary suites and/or simplify and/or streamline the process as soon as possible

The employers of Campbell River need a solution and need it quickly. We have been witness to incredible collaboration on all fronts by everyone in our community throughout the last few years and it has made an incredibly positive impact. We are asking Mayor and Council to collaborate with city staff, community organizations, the city’s employers and the greater community to not only find a solution to the ‘missing middle’ housing crisis, but implement those solutions swiftly.

Thank you for your careful consideration. I would be pleased to make myself available at your convenience if you deem further conversation necessary.

Mary Ruth Snyder,

Executive Director,

Campbell River & District Chamber of Commerce