I've been asked, from time to time, why we don't have more affordable housing options in Squamish like our Co-Op. Affordable housing is a complex topic. The very name is subjective and implies different things to different people. In my world, it simply means having housing options that are accessible to all. There are many different ways to achieve that: social housing, co-ops, covenants, etc.

    Our Co-Op was organized in 1974. At that time, the federal government was actively involved via Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and had programs to help establish non-market housing options. Co-Ops were key among them and depending on which section you organized under, there were different requirements, etc for each.

    CMHC provided mortgage loans to groups organizing as housing co-ops, usually 40 years at a fixed interest rate. In exchange for holding the mortgage, Co-Ops could be required to observe certain ingoing income limits or provide a certain number of subsidized units. Some Co-Ops also received ongoing subsidies with additional conditions (ours does not). Each grouping catered to different income levels.

    The great thing about Co-Ops is that they provide you with security of tenure (ie. they cannot, by law, be sold out from under you). As non-profits, 'rents' are limited to the ongoing annual costs (mortgage, taxes (yes, Co-Ops pay land taxes like anyone else), maintenance), so they tend to be cheaper (usually) than market rents, which provides breathing room in these financially stretched times. It is also a good thing to have maintenance and other bills structured and shared. Co-Ops also seem to have more of a sense of community about them than ordinary subdivisions or stratas. Members are required to participate and help make decisions.

    So why don't we have more of them?

    In a word: money. CMHC has been on a slow retreat from the housing business. The last Co-Ops are due to pay off their mortgages around 2020, completing the terms of their agreements and free to operate as they choose (within provincial laws), and the Agency for Co-Operative Housing (an arm of CMHC) is due to wind up shortly thereafter. There doesn't seem to be much interest at the provincial level. The provinces are already stretched with other housing priorities.

    It is entirely possible to organize new housing co-ops under current provincial legislation. The trick is finding funding. This is why I have been so supportive of new industry coming to town -- they provide new sources of taxes that could fund, along with some development cost charges, a future Squamish Housing Authority. That Authority could help acquire and secure land, provide guarantees or mortgages to organizers, even directly create housing on its own. Since Co-Ops are usually required to pay back what is invested in them, this ensures funding is recycled and made available to future groups.

    Let's get it going, Squamish!
    So I'm in. All year I've been saying no. And for some good reasons. 2013 was a tough year with some major health changes and re-evaluation of life priorities. I've lost about 50lbs since my last campaign photo (we need to fix that). In addition to my IT work I've gotten more heavily into writing, both non-fiction (columns in the Squamish Reporter) and fiction (I am currently competing in a contest put on by NYCMidnight.com). I love my family and am not really keen on giving up time with them. So I'm okay with missing out on a seat again.


    2014 is important.

    And no, it's not all about... you know... that one issue. Don't know what I'm talking about? WLNG.

    Take a look at our recent Vital Signs Report. You see lots of good stuff in there. I was particularly impressed with the level of post secondary education among aboriginals. Our local environment indicators are excellent. But then a few pages in you see what I've been seeing out in the community for years -- a widening income gap, escalating housing costs, declining opportunities. We need to fix that. We've needed to fix that for almost a decade. Rec-Tec may provide part of the answer, but only part.

    If you want to know why I support WLNG, it's because I support working families. I support them because I'm one of them. My famous 'fruit cup' reference actually could apply to any of a dozen plus families I know, including my own. My wife and I once sat in that very situation -- end of the month, no rent money, cupboards almost empty. *Nobody* should have to be in that situation. Once you've experienced that, you never forget it. You never forget that fear. I will whatever it takes to help others avoid those situations. I will not support turning Howe Sound into Mordor II, but I will support limited, non-destructive industry to provide taxes and opportunities for the community. No apologies.

    We have thousands who commute near and far. We have others struggling with low wage, insecure jobs because that's all they can find. We have small businesses retrenching to the home or not leaving it in the first place because our taxes and cost structure make it uneconomic. That's a loss to everyone.

    So yeah, I'm supporting WLNG. I'm supporting local families. I still support affordable housing. I still support keeping our most vulnerable out of the streets. This year, I'm all about competent, consistent government that acts without friend or favour and abides by its own policies. I am not a hard edged ideologue. I listen, I take in all the information I can, and I make the best decision I can. I know I can't make some of you love WLNG, but I hope you still love the other things I do, and will consider mutual goals I could help work towards in Council in the next four years. This election, this community, is too important to be about one issue.