Since it began almost twenty years ago, OPAL’s core mission has been clear and consistent — to deliver attractive, environmentally responsible, and above all, affordable homes to Orcas islanders. The mission has remained the same but Orcas is changing. Looking toward the not-too-distant future we can see that our island population is getting larger, older, and on average wealthier. As land and building costs have skyrocketed, people who make our lives here either possible (teachers, construction workers, public employees) or piquant (artists, artisans, families with young children) have found life harder and harder.
This year, the OPAL staff and trustees have begun a process of long-range planning. We are looking to the year 2020 and asking, “What will the need for island housing be in the future, and what does OPAL need to do to meet that need?” Four planning teams have been formed to address topics relating to OPAL’s long-range plan. Each team is chaired by a trustee, supported by a designated OPAL staff member, and includes trustee and community members with particular knowledge or interests. The four teams are:
• The Need for OPAL in 2020 – This team is looking at national and local demographic and economic trends and assessing their likely impact on Orcas housing needs.
• The OPAL of 2020 – In light of these needs, this team is examining and revising OPAL’s mission and vision, defining future thrusts (such as rental vs. individual ownership, or development vs. stewardship) and determining the parameters of a future OPAL’s size and scope.
• Financial/Funding Models and Alternatives – This team is evaluating and modeling alternatives for funding the work of a future OPAL (such as legacy giving, targeted state/federal grants, tax-based funding approaches, or market-based strategies that might include employer partnerships or mixed neighborhoods of subsidized and market-price homes);
• Organizational Implications – The staffing and policies that a future OPAL will need to be successful.
The four teams will be working separately over the next year, coming together monthly to share thoughts and results. By the year’s end, we will have a set of recommendations and a five-year work plan to implement those recommendations.
No one has a crystal ball that infallibly predicts a future more than 12 years away. We have to stay nimble enough as an organization to respond to the unexpected. For example, a year ago few could have anticipated that OPAL might significantly increase its role in rental housing this year, as could be true if we are successful in obtaining grants to purchase Lavender Hollow and preserve it as an island resource for affordable apartments.
Also, in our zeal to think about tomorrow we cannot forget that we have a big job to do today. We need to keep our feet anchored to the ground while our heads explore the skies.
Join us for OPAL’s Annual Meeting on April 29 from 5 to 5 p.m. at the Senior Center.
Allen Smith is President of the OPAL Board of Trustees.