A temporary permit that has created low-income housing options in Tofino is set to expire in October, leaving roughly 50 residents in fear of losing their homes.
Crab Apple Campground residents rallied in Tofino’s Village Green on April 13 in the hopes of generating support and a petition was launched raising over 1,700 signatures by presstime calling for the campground to continue as a residential area.
Maddy Bolt said she has lived in Tofino for six months, loves her job and loves living at Crab Apple.
“Crab Apple really, I feel, is the true spirit of Tofino. I’ve been welcomed here with open arms. It’s a diverse community that I feel is kind of what Tofino started as and I feel really proud to say that I live here,” she said.
She said she couldn’t imagine living anywhere else in Tofino, even if other options were available and added that the projected costs to live in affordable housing projects currently being constructed fall outside the range of what most current Crab Apple residents could afford.
She said she would be unable to pay more than $640 per month. The Tofino Housing Corporation has estimated its affordable housing units are projected to run between $875-$1,725 per month.
“Even those of us on well-paid salaried positions would be unable to budget for this type of affordability. This is something I’m not sure people who own property can sympathize with, perhaps empathize for sure, but sympathize is a different story,’ Bolt said.
The concerns seem to have been spurred by an application Tofino received from the campground’s owner that would have allowed Crab Apple to operate as a tourist commercial accommodation, which it is currently prohibited from doing.
Crab Apple received two temporary use permits to operate a residential campground for people living and working in Tofino with a prohibition on any tourism use in 2016 and 2018.
Tofino’s manager of community sustainability Aaron Rodgers said Crab Apple’s current rates for residents are believed to be between $450-$800, which includes access to shared facilities.
He noted that a key condition of both temporary use permits was that the campground would only be available to residents working in Tofino with a minimum stay of 30 consecutive days and no spots available for visitors.
“It was developed to be an affordable housing option for Tofino in the short term in the midst of a significant housing crisis which has only, as we all know, gotten worse over the years,” Rodgers said.
He added that the current permit will expire this October and the district is prohibited by the Local Government Act to renew a TUP more than twice, which means the campground in its current form is in flux and the issue has become “a source of much anxiety in the community.”
“The proposal as it stands today would rezone the current lot to allow the development of a commercial campground as well as commercial retail space,” he said. “The proposal is a commercial accommodation use, full stop.”
He noted Tofino’s recently updated Official Community Plan supports the development of affordable housing options, but limits the addition of any new tourism accommodations.
He said district staff would want a housing agreement that would allow the campground to operate similar to how it has under its temporary use permits, but suggested “the applicant has indicated that they would prefer not to enter into a housing agreement.”
The commercial aspect of the application made it a non-starter for both district staff, who recommended the application be denied, and council, who voted in favour of that recommendation.
Bolt suggested finding alternative affordable housing for Crab Apple’s roughly 50 residents would likely cost an “exorbitant amount of money” and questioned why the district would not keep what’s already in place.
“If we were to shut down Crab and then put all this money into making affordable housing, wouldn’t we be replacing something we already have now?” she asked.
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