Report Summary and Table of Contents

A Strategic Approach to Affordable Housing, Biodiversity,
and Freshwater Conservation on Gabriola Island
– A Community-Informed Process

March 26, 2021

Prepared by Dyan Dunsmoor-Farley, Jennefer Laidley and Katharine Patterson on behalf of the Gabriola Housing Working Group for the Gabriola Housing Advisory Planning Commission

A multi-year land use planning review project was launched in 2019 by the Gabriola Local Trust Committee (LTC). The goal of the ‘Housing Options and Impacts Review Project’ is to “develop new policies and regulations that will promote an increase in housing options on Gabriola Island, coupled with a high level of protection of the island’s groundwater supply, remaining biodiversity and sensitive ecosystems” (HOIRP Engagement Strategy, p.1).

As part of this project, the Gabriola Housing Working Group, reporting to the Gabriola Housing Advisory Planning Commission (HAPC), conducted a public engagement process, entitled Gabriola Housing Matters, between January 13 and March 2, 2021. The process addressed the question: How do we ensure the availability of affordable housing and protect biodiversity and freshwater resources?

Three surveys were conducted online and on paper, supported by public education materials relevant to each survey. Each survey gave participants opportunities to respond to multiple-choice questions and provide narrative comments.

The report from the process presents community members’ perspectives and attitudes towards affordable housing, biodiversity, and freshwater conservation on Gabriola, and provides a suite of recommendations for action that could be taken by the LTC, and other jurisdictions, to address all three needs. This document provides a summary of the report’s findings and recommendations. The full report, entitled A Strategic Approach to Affordable Housing, Biodiversity, and Freshwater Conservation on Gabriola Island – A Community-Informed Process, is available at:

Download the full Report in PDF.

Download appendices (supporting documents for the report) in PDF.


1087 respondents to the three surveys made 2031 comments.

Survey 1 respondents supported:

  • Expanding categories of housing need
  • Enhancing current multi-dwelling unit evaluation criteria
  • Investigating expanding options for secondary accommodation including lots less than 2 hectares, and,
  • Flexible zoning in residential zones dependent on ensuring ecological and water conservation objectives could be addressed.

In Survey 2, respondents supported:

  • Defining biodiversity
  • All groundwater protection measures, and,
  • Implementation of Coastal Douglas-fir ecosystem protection measures in the Islands Trust’s CDF Toolkit.

In Survey 3:

  • More than half of respondents supported regulations that would result in a decrease in the potential projected population (6,850 people) if all remaining densities (including potential subdivisions) are converted into dwellings, and those have full time residents. The remaining respondents were almost evenly divided between maintaining the current regulations and allowing an increase in the population.
  • Respondents were supportive of local government taking more directive action to ensure biodiversity and freshwater conservation objectives are met.

The GHWG’s report and recommendations were endorsed by the HAPC at its meeting of April 1, 2021 and have been forwarded to the LTC for consideration. More detail about the recommendations, which are based on the findings noted above, is available in the report; they include:

  1. Establish a Growth Management Strategy to ensure that growth on Gabriola is managed and gradual, balancing human and environmental needs to ensure long-term sustainability. The recommended Strategy has five main elements, which all arise from the survey responses and are detailed in the report.
  2. Establish a Biodiversity Conservation Strategy to ensure the recovery and long-term sustainability of our endangered Coastal Douglas-fir ecosystem. The recommended Strategy has three main elements, with seven sub-elements, which again all arise from the survey responses and are detailed in the report.
  3. Establish a Groundwater Protection Strategy to ensure the protection and sustainable management of freshwater resources. The recommended Strategy has five main components, arising from the survey results and detailed in the report.
  4. Establish an Affordable Housing Strategy to ensure a timely supply of affordable, appropriate housing that meets the needs of Gabriolans in a way that minimizes impacts on biodiversity and freshwater sustainability. The recommended Strategy has four main elements, arising from the survey results. Details are in the report.
  5. Enhance governance and oversight capacity through the creation of a Housing Affordability and Managed Growth Planning Commission, which would oversee implementation of the four strategies and ensure the work is aligned with reconciliation and climate change mitigation efforts. The responsibilities of this new body are outlined in the detailed recommendations. Recommendations around securing appropriate funding are also included.


The Gabriola Housing Working Group respectfully acknowledges and recognizes the Coast Salish Nations whose territory we live and work on. In particular, we acknowledge and recognize Gabriola Island as the unceded territory of Snuneymuxw First Nation (SFN). We respect the longstanding relationships that Coast Salish and Hul’qumi’num-speaking Nations have to this land, as they are the original caretakers. We acknowledge that the Snuneymuxw Treaty of 1854 (Douglas Treaties) was signed with the British Crown and colonial governments and asserts SFN treaty rights and title. We acknowledge and recognize that SFN rights and title is affirmed by Section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.

This report reflects the work and support of many individuals and organizations; most of this work was accomplished by volunteers. The following individuals contributed to this process: Kenda Chang-Swanson, Dyan Dunsmoor-Farley, Steve Earle, Tobi Elliott, Jennefer Laidley, Katharine Patterson, Angela Pounds, Janice Power, and John Woods. Professional support was provided by Sonja Zupanec (Island Trust Planner), Rob Hellenius (website design), Nola Johnson (graphic design), and Chris Mallison (website hosting).

The Gabriola Sounder was an important partner in ensuring that information about the project and surveys was regularly available to Gabriolans. And we thank the Islands Trust for providing funding to advertise the engagement process. A special thanks goes to the Gabriola Island Chamber of Commerce who matched Island Trust funding, which allowed us to engage the professional support necessary to launch the project website. Our thanks also to the Gabriola Health and Wellness Collaborative for producing the Gabriola Health Report, which served as a foundation document for the substantial background data that was prepared for each survey. The Gabriola Land & Trails Trust (GaLTT) provided a backgrounder on the major conservation threats facing Gabriola and their conservation priorities. Sonja Zupanec of the Islands Trust provided critical support to the project, including providing the information contained in the key policy backgrounders.

Most importantly, we want to acknowledge the hundreds of Gabriolans who participated in this process. We have done our best to ensure their perspectives are reflected in this work.

Download the full report as a PDF.