EDITORIAL: Housing issue election fodder

The status of Greater Victoria's homeless population may emerge as a key election issue in the region

People working with Greater Victoria’s street population have said for years that having a roof over a person’s head is the first and best hand up toward a healthier life.

That message is clearly getting through, as the results of a Coalition to End Homelessness survey of area residents show. A vast majority of respondents agreed that more affordable housing would reduce homelessness, but also agreed that government is in the best position to ensure access to such housing.

Experience has shown that housing people can save money in the long run, as opposed to covering the health and policing costs associated with a larger street population. And Greater Victoria is chipping away at its homelessness problem by creating housing affordable at every level.

That said, the Coalition’s decision to release their survey results on the eve of the 2013 provincial election campaign was a good way to place the ongoing problem onto the front burner for candidates.

With few specific local issues having yet emerged, other than the general dissatisfaction of some with government, hearing MLA hopefuls of all political stripes talk about how they might fight homelessness could help make the campaign a little more interesting.

The issue of homelessness is by no means specific to Greater Victoria, but there is a definite history to how the Liberal government has approached the problem.

In the early 2000s the province did little to provide incentives or funding to help below-market rate housing projects get built in our region, claiming the financial responsibility lay with federal or local governments.

Local jurisdictions and private developers became tired of waiting for funding from upper levels of government, rolled up their sleeves and found ways to get people off the streets and housed. The province, through B.C. Housing, has gradually loosened the purse strings and provided funding to ease the burden on local governments and developers.

We look forward to more of that kind of co-operation happening, regardless of who forms the next B.C. government.