›› Andrew Kerr
I choose to live in Fernwood because so many of its values align with my own. We are a neighbourhood with a strong sense of community, a passion for civic engagement and a deep desire to care for all of our neighbours, including across socioeconomic divides.
As our city grapples with a worsening affordability crisis, I have become increasingly concerned that our neighbourhood is becoming financially inaccessible—both for current and prospective residents.
This is a crisis which, first and foremost, affects renters. At 39%, our city has the second-lowest percentage of homeowners in Canada. With some of the lowest vacancy rates and highest rental costs in the country, losing one’s home is a real risk that affects people of all ages, including high school-aged youth—the 2018 Greater Victoria Point-in-Time Count found that 41% of our city’s unhoused population first experienced homelessness before the age of 18. Moreover, waitlists for social housing are extremely long. In June 2018, there were 994 households on the BC Housing waitlist in the CRD.
With the Caledonia redevelopment project, we are being presented with an incredible opportunity to improve the lives of families, seniors, persons living with disabilities, and many others who would benefit from its 154 units of affordable rental housing. That said, this project isn’t without risks—the displacement of current M’akola and CRHC tenants is a serious concern that needs to be centred.
It’s been said that this issue is dividing the community. I think the opposite is true—through it, I have developed even stronger relationships with my neighbours. Through collective advocacy, our neighbourhood can do its part to lead this city out of the housing crisis. We can build a community that we’re not only proud of, but one we can afford, too.