While I appreciate Rikki Swin’s thoughts on housing (as ran in the Journal) I suggest they don’t address the real issue – the dearth of permanently affordable housing in San Juan County. A review of home values and corresponding housing trends over the past 20 years demonstrates increased difficulty for the average wage earner to enter the home ownership market and a corresponding increase in demand for rentals. Home prices and rents have increased dramatically, and wages haven’t kept pace. The problem has been on “the radar” here for some 20 years but little has come in the form of concrete action. Organizations like the San Juan Community Home Trust, which offers permanently affordable housing through deed restriction, and Homes for Islanders, which uses homeowner “sweat equity” to lower the initial purchase price have had some success, but the need far outstrips the supply.
And I have to ask what other “means” are available for housekeepers and day laborers – import them from the mainland? What solutions are available to those who work in restaurants and tourism businesses who start early in the day and run into the evening – “couch surfing”? Car camping? And how does our island economy benefit when those dollars go back to Anacortes or Mount Vernon?
All of this ignores those people who are unrelated to restaurants, tourism businesses and vacation rentals but whose presence and efforts are essential to those businesses – our teachers, EMTs, firefighters, sheriff deputies, health care workers, retail clerks, delivery drivers, government workers, administrative and clerical employees, agricultural workers, small “mom & pops.” Those are the people, along with those who are employed by the vacation rental and tourism sector, who are the fiber of our “local culture” and by supporting them we preserve and strengthen our entire community.
The problem extends much further than the vacation and tourism industry, and the solution is nowhere near as simple as increasing the administrative burden on vacation rentals.
In order to preserve the local culture and allow our communities to grow and prosper, we need to step forward and support a permanent funding source to support affordable housing of all types. We are preserving open land through land bank purchases; why not support a similar program dedicated to the creation of affordable housing all across the county?
Board Member, San Juan Community Home Trust