This fall, business owners in Snug Cove, including Glenn Cormier owner of the Bowen Island Pub and Daniel Heald, owner of the Ruddy Potato, have been asking council for help to find affordable rental housing for their staff. This week, Rh\Rondy Dike and Oydis Nickle of the Union Steamship (USSC) Marina and Doc Morgan’s took their turn to do the same. Their request for assistance, however, came in the form of a proposal to build six floating micro-homes along what is currently the dinghy dock of the USSC Marina.
“It is critical for us to get this done before next summer,” says Rondy Dike. “Out of our 65 employees this summer only four were home owners and only nine drove or had access to a car to come into work. Now, even though the summer’s over, we still have four employees in need of permanent housing.”
Oydis, Rondy’s daughter and co-owner of the businesses adds that this summer at Doc’s, there were just a few occasions where they had enough staff to open up the bottom half of the restaurant, and in July, the restaurant closed on Thursdays to prevent staff burn-out.
“Ideally, we’d like to be open seven days a week,” she says.Nickle adds that she sees the housing needs carrying over into the winter.
“But if by chance those homes were empty in the winter, there are a lot of contractors from off-island looking for places to stay,” she says. “Last year, we housed several for weeks at a time.”
The Union Steamship Marina is currently zoned to allow three floating houses. One of these is currently being used as a home, another is used as a vacation rental and the Union Steamship office counts as the third.
“I was just scratching my head thinking about how we could find more housing, and then I turned on the television and saw this show about micro-homes,” says Nickle. “We started discussing the idea and realized that the dock we are currently using for dinghies could be the perfect location. We don’t have to break ground so it would be much easier than construction on land.”
The vision Dike and Nickle have come up with (Dike is a trained architect) is of six duplex-style homes with 270 square feet of living space on16x40ft. floats.
“They would be ideal for a single person, and getting stable, affordable housing for six of our staff would be incredibly helpful,” says Nickle.
As the units would be made from pre-fabricated panels and assembled on-site, Dike estimates that getting these units built would take roughly three or four months. Each unit would have its own built-in wastewater system, which he says have been approved elsewhere for use in lakes.
They are hoping that these units could be rented out for $800 per month.
Council did not make any decision on the proposal this week, beyond making plans to schedule a Council of the Whole meeting in order to have a more extensive discussion on the proposal.
Business owners beg for change: For a complete reading of these letters go to the municipal council agenda for September 11, 2017
...I firmly believe the current housing situation is beyond critical. I struggle to see how our current choices promote the community values we hold so dear.
I write to request your help in creating an affordable rental housing project adjecent to the proposed BC Housing project in the cove.
In envisage the project being managed by the Ruddy Potato utilizing the many professionals and skilled construction workers here on the island. The accommodations created would be for all island workers and retirees, not just the Ruddy Potato. The build process would be in a number of discreet phases, completing homes as demand dictates. The style of units would be a mix of one/two and three bed. Perhaps a lottery for suitable applicants could be used to ensure fairness!
With the municipality providing land at no cost the Ruddy would run the project with no profit to the Ruddy. The completed project would be handed over to a housing association for future management. In an ideal world a small surplus is desired to start building a reserve to cover future maintenance and repair costs of the project...
-- Daniel Heald, Ruddy Potato
As a business owner on Bowen Island for the past five years I have witnessed firsthand the impact of a strengthening real estate market on our limited rental inventory on this island.
As an example, my business revenues support the employment of 25 - 35 full and part-time hospitality workers throughout the year. Currently my payroll has 14 names on it. Thirteen of the fourteen are self-supporting individuals, two are single mothers and ALL of them are renters.
In the last few months, three have been served eviction notices due to their rental homes being sold... two of them are those same single mothers. All three were born and raised and have lived on Bowen their entire lives. Only one has been able to secure housing for herself and her two young sons, albeit double their previous rent. The other two are facing the reality that they may be forced to leave Bowen Island.
This past tourist season has been one of the busiest Bowen has been blessed with. Yet many of our most prominent and successful businesses were forced to limit their hours of operation and scale back their service due to a lack of available workers. I personally was forced to shut down the kitchen at golf course in the middle of high season. The detriment here is not about lost profits, it’s about the future of our service sector and one of our largest economic drivers... tourism.
This is not just a difficult situtuation, this is potentially catastrophic to Bowen’s economy and diversity as a unique island municipality.
-- Glenn Cormier, Bowen Island Pub