The issue of housing is set to simmer ahead of Metchosin’s election
This story was originally published in The Westshore newsletter, Aug. 25, 2022.
A familiar debate is brewing in Metchosin about housing, change, and how much of it Metchosin should take on. About 10 years ago, the small community was divided over a push to allow detached secondary suites. Now, a Metchosin woman is advocating for temporary structures to be allowed, as well.
Sarah Anthony has been advocating for housing solutions in the rural community, and on Monday night she formally presented her plan to council via the Finance and Environment Committee. Her ask is for an amendment to allow one RV pad or tiny home on any property in Metchosin.
“Obviously we can't solve this whole [housing crisis], but we can maybe help a little bit, maybe ease some pressure,” Anthony said.
She shared stories from several people she’s spoken to over the months who have precarious living situations. Many of them are on a fixed income, and lots even have full-time jobs but are still struggling to find a place to live.
RV pads and tiny homes are easier and cheaper than permanent secondary suites, and they’re already in common use in Metchosin, Anthony said. One of the benefits to implementing her proposal would mean that people who are already living in RVs on Metchosin properties would be able to do so legally. District staff could inspect the homes for safety and compliance with water and sewage bylaws.
Lots of residents were at council chambers to comment, including president of the Association for the Protection of Rural Metchosin (APRM) Jay Shukin.
“I have to say we do not believe that a change is in the best interest of Metchosin,” he said.
He primarily disagreed with Anthony’s claim that RVs and tiny homes are equivalent to secondary suites in terms of bylaw enforcement. Shukin argued that the investment needed from the landowner, and the plans and permits required, ensure longevity and give the district more power to make sure environmental protections are followed.
And because owners of RVs and tiny homes on wheels would not pay property taxes, Shukin said the population increase would be subsidized by people living in regular homes. Anita Strauss agreed saying, “I don't see why the rest of us have to subsidize a style of living that isn't paying anything into the community to help the community thrive.”
Overall, he suggested the proposal wouldn’t even address affordable housing, since it relies on the altruism of the landowner choosing to keep rent affordable and make the space available to people “who are worthy of that alternative housing.”
“I would suggest that the real opportunity here is not for affordable housing options, but for private landowners to develop short-term vacation rental suites,” Shukin said.
“We've done our share for housing by saying that every property can have an in-house suite or a detached secondary suite. That's our contribution. We don't want to attract a whole lot of temporary transient people. That's not how you build community,” Bev Bacon said.
Carrie Hill rejected the notion of a transient population that doesn’t contribute to the community. She’s been in Metchosin for 21 years, working as a farmer.
“I am not a transient nor a difficult or homeless resident. I've raised four of my children here. I'm facing homelessness due to factors that are not in my control, coming up this spring.” She went on to say an RV pad rental would be an ideal solution for her and her children.
Other speakers opposed the APRM’s arguments, and spoke up in support of Anthony’s proposal. Diana Smith took issue with Shukin’s claim that Metchosin isn’t the ideal place for affordable housing because it’s far from community resources.
“Tiny house users choosing to live here probably would see the joy of living here is worth the inconvenience, just like the rest of us,” she said. “Let’s do what we can to be part of the solution. Let's share the wealth in a responsible way.”
Mayor John Ranns recalled the debate over detached homes a decade ago, and said the uptake of people building suites was minimal and did not live up to fears that it would change the nature of Metchosin.
“As somebody that has been committed most of my adult life to keeping this place rural, I don't believe that this is going to be a compromise to any of the rural nature of this community,” he said.
The one thing everyone agreed on is that this is a matter for the next council.