Adequate, “work-force” housing on Hornby, ownership and rentals, is among the most pressing issues facing our community. Without affordable accommodation we risk losing vital people, necessary to sustain Hornby through their work and cultural contributions.
Because the narrative is frequently driven by stories of negative renting experiences, a series of interviews will appear in the First Edition focusing on the flip side - those renters and landlords who have largely positive viewpoints.
Blissful Bodywork is not an auto body shop for the car whose dents are in need of spiritual repair. It is the business of Andrea Rutz who provides restorative massage, promoting health in body and soul. She works from the home she and her husband Dean have rented for four years. To provide such a service year round requires a permanent space. Such stability allows Andrea to plan and offer continuous service to clients. She claims that this long term rental continuity is of benefit in a number of domestic domains, including the aforementioned operation of her home business, the ability to home-school her daughters without disruption and the importance for her and her family of making a house a home.
Andrea and Dean have been on Hornby for 17 years. During that time they have lived in two homes, both 12 month rentals. Andrea knows Hornby renters who have had to vacate their homes frequently. She says these moves are typically attended by the angst of having to find alternative accommodation in a tight time frame, not to mention the accompanying disruption that negatively impacts family life.
Asked for her thoughts as to how more renters could be accommodated on Hornby, Andrea wondered if potential landlords might be reluctant to rent because of their concern for the deleterious effect on renters of having to vacate their home for the summer months. She floated the idea of creating adequate, short-term, summer housing for people dispossessed of their homes during the summer season. Perhaps landlords would be more amenable to a 10 month rental knowing there were decent living alternatives for July and August. What this temporary housing might look like and how it might be financed would require further thought and community input.
Andrea and Dean believe in doing their part to maintain a home. As Dean is a skilled woodworker, sometimes an arrangement is made with the landlord for work done against the rent. Other jobs around the home – cleaning gutters, the chimney or gardening, are taken on out of a sense of pride of place. This sort of sweat equity in a rental property not only provides personal satisfaction but benefits the landlord too, as a home maintained retains its value.
Landlords and tenants, through the development of such trust and respect, foster a working relationship that can be a boon to both.
Housing Success Stories
I met with Masoud, a well-known potter and Hornby resident of 20 years in his studio, over a cup of green tea and ginger snap cookies. He has a long-term lease on the studio that sits on a stunning 10-acre parcel of land overlooking Lambert Channel, Denman and Vancouver Islands.
A wood fire burned vigorously, casting a rich glow over the space, illuminating his mugs, platters and vases. His artistic production affirms his premise that productivity and creativity thrive with stability.
Despite his positive views on the potential of renting, Masoud acknowledges that frequent moves are the norm for many Hornby residents, resulting in disruption, displacement and not surprisingly, displeasure. The seasonal dynamic that finds many renters having to vacate over the fair weather months, is a fact of life on Hornby. Masoud says adaptability under these challenging conditions is called for, as renters scramble to find alternatives over the summer, often resorting to camping or couch surfing. He thinks of this as a Hornby survival skill.
Life on this gorgeous island can be enriching in ways not measured monetarily, Masoud claims. For those choosing lifestyle over financial gain, home ownership may be out of the question. Renting becomes the alternative.
Two themes emerged from our conversation: 1. Forging a good relationship between landlord and tenant via written rental agreements, specifically detailing rights, responsibilities and financial commitments. 2. The implementation of a registry of landlords and tenants with the aim of finding 'good fits' between the two. Naturally, the information collected would need to meet ethical and regulatory guidelines.
There are many dwellings on Hornby that could be offered for rent. Masoud believes that reluctant home owners might be more amenable to renting if they felt confident they could be matched with someone who would respect and treat their places with care, laying the foundation of a positive rental relationship, in which mutual respect and consideration are constructed.