A healthy community needs both affordable housing and Land Bank | Letter

In a recent guest column about the need for affordable housing, Sam Buck suggested changing the structure of real estate excise taxes which provide funds for the Land Bank and for affordable housing.

State law allows for the collection of a one percent tax on real estate sales to fund land conservation through our Land Bank. An additional half-percent tax for the development of affordable housing is allowed only after the Land Bank tax is in place.

Conservation and housing are both vital components of our quality of life. Land Bank preserves and easements provide for habitat protection, agricultural support, enjoyment by the community, and they look to the future when climate resilience will be important.

The Land Bank is always willing to consider partnerships with affordable housing groups. As an example, the County Council has recently been working to provide affordable housing in Friday Harbor on property purchased by the Land Bank for historic preservation which was then conveyed to the County in 2017 for housing. Additionally, the Land Bank worked with the Lopez Community Land Trust to create affordable farmsteads, and on Orcas to satisfy mitigation requirements for an OPAL housing project.

The more development that occurs in the islands, the more important it is for us to support both affordable housing and land conservation. These cornerstones of a healthy community deserve our serious attention.

Marilyn O’Connor

Commissioner, San Juan County Conservation Land Bank