Yesterday evening I managed to make it to the community roundtable on the legalization of secondary suites. I was pleasantly surprised at the number of people who actually supported the legalization of secondary suites in the crowd. There were at least a few at every table save one. I have no idea as to the make up of other tables, but ours was pretty evenly split between those that supported it and those that didn’t.
I did find a few things telling. There was a gentleman who called for a referendum on the issue. This would mean delaying any decision until 2011 at the earliest, as running a referendum during a non-election year is simply too expensive. Given how long the issue has been left untouched, this is not really a major issue. What galled me was that he called for a referendum of “home-owners”. Not taxpayers, not voters, but home owners. Renters like myself pay taxes, albeit indirectly through our landlords, and we have the right to vote. We have as much say in the running of Oak Bay as those who are fortunate to be able to afford a home. I find it sad that there are those that forget that.
The event was also well attended by the municipal council and candidates from the last municipal election. Nils Jensen, Pam Copley and John Herbert are all members of the committee but were joined by Tara Ney and Allan Cassidy with Mayor Causton sending his regrets. With Michelle Kirby and myself both there, the only candidates from the last municipal election missing were sitting councillor Hazel Braithwaite and candidate Chris Smith.
Which brings me to the irony. One of the major issues people raised was the more renters would somehow change Oak Bay for a worse, introducing a more transient population that doesn’t take care of the properties they rent and throws loud parties. Parties like the one my roommates and I were having earlier this evening, hanging out on our front steps, drinking beer and chatting about life.
All is not lost on the secondary suites fight. It is important that the committee hear from as many people who support legalization as possible. Those that oppose legalization are out in force and they are well organized. The next time you can tell the committee of your views is April 23rd, 5:30-7:30pm at the Municipal Hall.