Letter: Housing shortage needs mixture of solutions


Beneath the arguments for or against the Freeland motel, or the Coles Valley development, or reliable rentals being flipped for profit/ vacation rentals, I hear a great deal of pain, fear and frustration about…

Our friends and neighbors are no longer able to afford to live here.

A “there goes the neighborhood” undercurrent about placing more affordable development in our midst.

Assumptions that transitional housing means crime, loitering, trash, which will drive away customers.

Not here, not now, elsewhere, we’re good people, it’s just that…

Consider: Our world is changing fast, and even if we are good people, when our expectations are threatened, we balk. The growing wealth gap makes our houses attractive investments as second homes, as vacation rentals, as banks to store surplus. All this makes housing out of reach for those wanting to actually live here. The logic of private property supports maximizing profit from our greatest asset – our homes. We are under intense pressure not of our making. We can’t seem to get ahead of it and it’s driving us apart.

Consider: The climate is changing. Every story about fires, floods and droughts elsewhere drives people north, i.e. here. Climate refugees, of every means, are heading our way. This will only intensify.

What can we do? We can accept that we can’t control what’s landing on us, but can control how we respond. Instead of resisting what we fear, we can accept that more people are coming, and we’re not going to change the logic of private property. Instead, we can “multi-solve,” meaning see how a variety of solutions fit together to make our community more vibrant and compassionate.

How can governments use their toolkits, like regulation and taxation, to make off-island investors bear more of the burden of housing inequity, and residents bear less?

What can homeowners do? Turn under-utilized spaces into long term rentals? Convert a family room or garage into a studio? Divide a big home into two units? Put a caretaker cottage at second homes? Have roommates?

Yes, nonprofits are crucial, both in helping the affected and in creating new institutions to support equitable opportunities to live here. Land trusts. Housing trusts. Business people can make transitional housing in downtowns part of their business models. Protectors of our environment can be seen as guardrails for quality, not impediments to profit.

Can we solve this as a community, for our community?

Vicki Robin