Dear City of Revelstoke:
Congratulations on last month’s approval of the Revelstoke Housing Action Plan.
As noted in the Aug. 25 article in the Revelstoke Review, addressing housing availability and affordability not only is the highest priority for residents but also was a top priority for council candidates four years ago.
I was surprised, however, by sentiments expressed by Mayor Sulz and councillors Elliot and Palmer that the city should “get out of the way,” that municipal governments can’t “solve the housing crisis”, that “it’s “voluntarily downloading” of provincial responsibility, and “that municipal governments often do a lousy job of handling the problem”.
Not only is this untrue, but it is exactly these sentiments that have contributed to deeply embedding the housing crisis in our community, despite the best efforts of the Revelstoke Community Housing Society, the Revelstoke Senior Citizens Housing Society and others.
In fact, all levels of government have diverse and uniquely important roles in the development of affordable housing along the housing continuum, as do both the non-profit and private sector.
Local governments are best-placed to undertake planning needed to understand the diversity of housing needs residents are facing – from families to seniors to the workforce – and link this to land use (e.g. The OCP update, Housing Needs Assessment, and Housing Action Plan).
Bylaws and policies can incentivize both non-profit and private sector, making it easier and more feasible to build both rental and ownership housing that is accessible and affordable.
Higher levels of government are making it easier for local governments to create housing reserve funds that can represent important contributions to offset the high cost new builds.
The contribution of land represents the same, and is now an accepted condition for most funding applications (e.g. CBT, BC Housing).
Local governments across the province are helping to address the commodification of housing – something that has plagued Revelstoke for years and been a core driver in the escalation of market prices – through the introduction of speculation tax.
I was surprised that Revelstoke wasn’t on the list of new regions!
Importantly, planning staff can be empowered to create the space for and contribute knowledge to multi-sector conversations and collaboration, helping to build local capacity and community readiness so that when funding comes down the pipe from higher levels of government, we are ready to go.
It is critical for local governments to be active community partners, contributors, and collaborators in the planning and development of a wide range of local housing options that meet the diverse needs of our community.
There are many local governments across the province that are, in fact, doing an excellent job at the things listed above – and more.
We are in a time when we need to embrace creative, innovative solutions, and our community is full of smart people with great ideas.
The past 50 years have shown us that ‘free enterprise’ and the private sector have failed miserably in housing our population, and neither higher levels of government nor one sector can single-handedly tackle this complex issue.
To say otherwise displays a surprising ignorance of both the issue and potential solutions.
In Revelstoke we are in a time where decisions and actions taken now will shape the future of our community.
I strongly suggest that both incumbents and new candidates educate themselves on this highest community priority and be ready and willing to place local government firmly in the centre of solution-focused, collaborative implementation of the Revelstoke Housing Action Plan.