YES to REET | Letters

Please join me in supporting the county Home Fund. First off, let me say loudly that this is not a property tax! A Real Estate Excise Tax is paid by the buyer of a house or piece of property. And this 0.5 percent tax will be used to support the construction or maintenance of affordable housing (rental and ownership) throughout the county.

Two questions will occur to you I am sure. First, is there really a need for such a tax? The answer is absolutely clear: YES! The need, in fact, is desperate. I’ve spent 10 years on the board of OPAL Community Land Trust, and several years on the board of the Orcas Community Resource Center, and both organizations can attest to the fact that our island community is in dire need of more affordable housing. And if you don’t believe such evidence, talk to local merchants. So many of them report that they cannot hire new employees from off island because those prospective employees cannot find housing. Or talk to the school. How do they hire the best new teachers if those teachers can’t find a place to live?

My own view is that our island is on the edge of becoming economically and socially dysfunctional because the housing situation is so difficult. San Juan County has the lowest average wages and the highest average housing prices of any county in the state, and that is a very bad combination. We NEED all the islanders who are desperately searching for decent housing.

Second question: Is a Real Estate Excise Tax the right way to solve the problem? Yes. The County Council has explored all the available options and concluded that a REET is the best bet.

To quote the fact sheet: A REET authorized by Washington State law serves the largest population of any available housing funding measure, up to 115 percent of the area median income. The REET would not increase the property tax burden of County Residents, and a REET is considered a stable source of revenue.

Over its 12 year life, the REET would generate something like 15 million to support affordable housing projects – including maintenance of existing housing. Those millions, in turn, would help applicant organizations leverage state and federal grant dollars.

This is important for all of us who live here. Please vote YES for the San Juan County Home Fund on Nov. 6. It matters.

Helen Bee

Orcas Island