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Affordable housing needed now

The community services committee in Gibsons has taken a big step towards creating affordable housing.

The community services committee in Gibsons has taken a big step towards creating affordable housing.

The committee has passed a resolution looking for council's approval to donate a parcel of land on Headlands Road to Habitat for Humanity for an affordable housing project.

Council will vote on the motion at its Tuesday meeting. I hope council says yes and gets this project up and running.

I've been following Habitat for Humanity for the past year now. Every time I deal with Ed Hawkins and his committee, I am more and more impressed.

I first learned that Habitat was coming to the Sunshine Coast when I attended the trade fair at the Sunshine Coast Arena in April. I met Ed and a few of his volunteers, who gave me background information on their organization and plans for the Coast.

I immediately recognized the organization. The first picture that popped into my head was that of former U.S. president Jimmy Carter, who has been an advocate, volunteer and spokesperson for Habitat for Humanity on the international level for many years.

I was excited that Habitat was coming to the Coast.

I told Ed we'd love to do a feature story on his organization to help introduce them to the community, and shortly after the trade show we did.

Through the remainder of the year, Habitat made presentations up and down the Coast to both the public and government members.

All of the governments, Sechelt, the Sunshine Coast Regional District and Gibsons, liked the idea of Habitat, but no one was sure if there was land available.

Gibsons so far has been the lone government body that has stepped up to the plate. After shooting the idea back and forth through council and committee, staff was instructed in November to see what land the town owned that could be made available for Habitat.

Shortly after that, a public consultation meeting was held at Harmony Hall. I attended and was quite surprised at some of the negative reactions to the land donation.

Negative comments were not directed at Habitat; everyone seemed supportive of the organization. The negativity was about the lot size and that this type of project was not what was needed in the neighbourhood.

Neighbours wanted to protect the green space - basically saying "We like Habitat, but we don't want it in our backyard."

They are valid concerns. I don't live in the neighbourhood, so it's tough for me to say that these residents are right or wrong. But here's the thing: in order for affordable housing to work on the Coast, someone has to take the first step. To my knowledge, there isn't a huge piece of property sitting empty somewhere that is up for the taking. This parcel of land in Gibsons is suitable for the project. This is it, folks. If this land isn't given to Habitat, who knows if anything will ever get built? Gibsons has been proactive on this issue and should be applauded for that.

On Saturday, an affordable housing forum is being held at the Seniors' Activity Centre in Sechelt. I encourage you to attend that meeting, talk with the experts and with Ed Hawkins and his group, and find out what you can do. This is an issue of great need in this community. All that's required is one push to get the ball rolling. Gibsons has given that push. Now it's up to the rest of us to continue the momentum.