The Cowichan Valley Regional District is to hold open houses on proposed social housing tax. (File photo)

Editorial: Social housing tax needed to address this crisis

A few dollars a year is a small price to pay to help those in need

This is one new tax that we support 100 per cent.

The Cowichan Valley Regional District has proposed to start collecting another $4.58 per $100,000 assessed property value to go into a fund to go towards building affordable housing.

Such a plan is desperately needed in the Cowichan Valley. From Mill Bay to Duncan and Chemainus, Lake Cowichan and Youbou to Ladysmith there is an affordable housing crisis. Home prices have shot up for prospective buyers, meaning it’s harder to purchase for many. At the same time rents have skyrocketed and there is limited rental stock to choose from. People are spending thousands of dollars every month (one letter writer cited $2,200) just to put a roof over their heads.

This is nuts.

It’s tough for many property owners who see their taxes rise every year. But this is a public, communal crisis that is only getting worse. Some argue that it’s not up to local governments to deal with housing woes, and they should leave it to the senior levels of government, provincial and federal, to do something about it. We certainly see some merit in this argument, however, in practice it just doesn’t cut it. Because the provincial and federal governments have failed to act in a way that has even remotely addressed this issue in any kind of satisfactory manner — evidenced by the fact that things have only deteriorated over the last five to 10 years, not gotten better, the local government needs to step in and provide relief.

How long are we supposed to wait for senior governments to get their act together? And in the meantime, what does that mean for the increasing number of people who are having to choose between rent and their prescriptions, or rent and food? Do we just tell them, so sorry, too bad, we’ve chosen not to help you because it really should be those guys that do?

No, we need to take action at every level we possibly can. We need to get shovels in the ground and framing going up, not endless meetings and press conferences promising dollars that don’t seem to translate into actual units. The CVRD proposes that the fund created by the tax be used to leverage provincial and federal dollars, so it’s not like we’re totally giving up, we’re just kick-starting it.

Those in need are our friends, relatives and neighbours. A few dollars a year is a small price to pay.

—Cowichan Valley Citizen

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