Orcas is a wonderful island, a place to relax and get away from it all, a combination of culture and nature, day-to-day living and extraordinary events. We are lucky to live here.
A whole host of people are the cogs that make our island’s wheels turn. They live and work here, but it is difficult if not impossible for them to find affordable housing. Their ability to move forward, to find a permanent place to live, becomes more and more elusive. We all have acquaintances who fall into this category. They rent the places they live in because purchasing a home is just a little beyond their reach. We need to do something about this lower- and middle-income housing crisis before we lose even more electricians, plumbers, teachers, gardeners, salespeople, clerks, receptionists, artists, construction workers, etc., etc.
One such family are friends of mine. The husband and wife work six days a week – he does maintenance, she is a housecleaner and mother of three great kids. These are folks that you would be lucky to have as neighbors. They have rented for seven years and scrimped and saved, but because housing in San Juan County is the least affordable in Washington state, they must continue to rent. There simply are no homes that they can afford to buy.
Yes for Homes has an answer which will be on the ballot in November. It sets up a fund which will be available to organizations and builders who propose building lower- and middle-income affordable housing. The money will come from a one-time excise tax, applied exclusively to the purchase and sale of property. It amounts to half of 1 percent of the purchase price, paid almost entirely by the buyer. For a $350,000 home, it would increase the buyer’s mortgage payment by about $8 per month. And it is estimated that after its first year, this fund will have collected $1.2 million, all of which will go toward creating affordable housing for qualified buyers.
It really is in everybody’s interest to make the San Juans a home for the people who work here.