Tofino mayor Josie Osborne.

Tofino mayor Josie Osborne.

Tofino mayor explains housing editorial

"We felt it was important to get our messages out there."

A group of mayors, including Tofino’s, recently put their heads and pens together to urge the provincial government to tackle the housing crisis their communities are suffering from.

Tofino mayor Josie Osborne told the Westerly News that Victoria mayor Lisa Helps kickstarted the collaboration inviting Port Coquitlam mayor Greg Moore, Smithers mayor Taylor Bachrach, and Osborne to put their thoughts into a co-written editorial for media to distribute.

Osborne said the group believed a unified voice would be stronger than four individual editorials.

“Opinion pieces help stimulate public debate and sometimes help shape policy and, we felt, it was important to get our messages out there,” she said.

She said local governments are hoping to see provincial dollars going towards housing initiatives, particularly in respect to supply and demand initiatives.

“Tofino, like many municipalities across BC, will benefit from measures taken to calm speculation and rapidly increasing prices as well as targeted investments in building housing, especially rental housing,” she said. “We’ve identified an affordability gap in Tofino between the construction cost of rental housing versus what affordable rents can repay on a construction loan, and that gap can’t be filled just by land provided by the municipality at no charge. We need investment of the kind senior governments were doing—and then stopped doing—decades ago.”

She said Tofino’s local government is taking “proactive and measured steps” to address its housing crisis, but added, “None of the steps we can all take are fast.”

She said Tofino has investigated the nature of its housing problem and produced detailed studies and inventories.

“We have data to inform policy decisions and substantiate funding applications,” she said.

She added her council has focused on adding affordable housing amenities to development applications to create price-controlled housing and the reconstituted Tofino Housing Corporation is undertaking a housing development on municipally-owned land with an eye on breaking ground in 2019.

She suggested Tofino continues to crack down on illegal vacation rentals.

“We’ve focused on enforcing short-term rental regulations out of a concern of loss of rental housing,” she said. “Not because we assumed a lot of short-term rentals would convert back to long-term rentals but because we wanted to protect what rental housing stock remains, promote the use of residential properties for homes first and foremost, and heighten community awareness about STR regulations so we can take pride in a well-run and well-regulated industry, and address the issues being created by unlawful operations.”

Tofino-Ucluelet Westerly News