MP Gord Johns, Tofino Mayor Josie Osborne, and Tofino Housing Corporation’s executive director Ian Scott unveiled plans for an affordable housing development on Nov. 18. Input from residents is essential for the foundation of project. Have your say at: tofino.ca/housing. (Nora O’Malley / Westerly News)

Tofino housing strategy discussed

“None of us can do this on our own.”

Sara Grahovac has been living in Tofino since 2010. The 31-year old has savings in the bank, steady employment, and is the proud owner of Slick Licks Pops Tofino.

She currently has a good rental situation, but says she’s ready to buy.

Unfortunately, after attending the Mortgage 101 session during the Tofino Housing Forum on Nov.18, Grahovac has come to the bleak realization that, in its current real-estate climate, she will never be able to own a home in the town she’s loved for the past seven years.

“[Slick Licks] is doing well. Every year when I crunch the numbers at the end of the season, it’s doing well. I’m putting out more and making more so there is that feeling of opportunity that I am succeeding, which is really nice,” said Grahovac.“However owning a home in this town or looking forward to the future of owning a home or even just renting a bigger space for my business is next to impossible right now…I’m doing really well, I think, but I can’t seem to grow anymore. So what do I do about that? I’m stuck in this spot. It’s not the best place to be.”

Grahovac’s story reflects one of many Tofitians who have a strong desire to grow, but with no feasible option available, they are considering jumping ship.

“My business is not so huge that I can still move it and do it elsewhere so I am thinking about doing that,” she said.

According to Ian Scott, executive director of the Tofino Housing Corporation, the average house price for a person with an income of $66,000 is $200,000 to $230,000.

Property in Tofino starts at $469,000, and only goes up.

The recent partnership between the District of Tofino and the Tofino Bible Fellowship is the silver lining of the town’s escalating housing shortage.

Eighteen hectares of land behind the community hall near Tonquin Trail, officially know as District Lot 114, is earmarked for affordable housing.

But, even if the project gets fast-tracked, construction wouldn’t begin until 2019, said Scott.

In the meantime, established locals like Mathieu Amin are opening up their lands to house the influx of seasonal staff.

About a year ago, Amin was granted a temporary use permit to operate a staff accommodation campground for up to 70 people.

To stay on his grounds, tenants must have a job and there is a 30-day minimum stay. Last summer, Amin housed about 50 people.

“I tried to make the place as comfortable as possible, building showers and bathrooms and having laundry a kitchen area and Wi-Fi. Basically everything a person would need to be comfortable in a living environment, given that they are living in a tent or a van,” he said.

Fish and Loaves Humane Society member John Enns told the Westerly he thinks council has good intentions, but he still feels there is reluctance to change from the existing paradigm of housing.

“We need to change the hearts and minds of not only council, but staff in order to have affordable, livable, and maintainable housing in Tofino,” Enns said.

Mayor Josie Osborne stressed the fact that the District is not the only problem solver.

“None of us can do this on our own. The District of Tofino can’t do this on its own. The developers can’t do it on their own, the Housing Corporation can’t, the Bible Fellowship can’t, we are all in this together,” she said. “I don’t know what all the answers are going to be, I just know it’s going to take every single one of us to work on it.”

Osborne urged all residents to complete the Tofino affordable and attainable housing survey, which can be found by visiting: Tofino.ca/housing.

Grahovac reiterated the mayor’s call-to-action.

“There are a lot of people in the community that talk a lot about their issues on the topic, but don’t participate. It’s just like in voting for your Prime Minister. If you want, let’s say a pension, you have to participate and get involved,” she said.

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