County awards $190,000 to support affordable housing project on Orcas

Staff report

San Juan County announced that $190,000 has been awarded to provide affordable housing utility infrastructure to the Kidder Way Project on Orcas Island.

The county will be able to support the development of 10 new homeownership opportunities through this Connecting Housing to Infrastructure Program grant. Utility development costs have been identified in the county and Washington State as a barrier for affordable housing endeavors. This most recent award is the third successful CHIP grant application the county has been awarded. It has now been given CHIP money for a project on all three major ferry-served islands.

The Kidder Way Project is managed by OPAL Community Land Trust. It will produce 10 new affordable housing units in Eastsound.

The county says it is “proud to support the work of OPAL through this CHIP grant, as well as a previous grant award to the project from the county’s own Home Fund.”

The Home Fund is administered by SJC Health and Community Services, and its goal is to develop, produce and preserve affordable housing in San Juan County. This program expands opportunities for local affordable housing projects to bring additional State, Federal and private funding, such as CHIP grants, from outside the county into thecommunity to build more affordable housing.

According to the OPAL, more than 40 families are pre-approved to purchase a house through the non-profit. The Kidder Way property is located next to the Medical Center on property sold by Steve and Rita Bailey to OPAL at a discounted price in 2018.

The orgnanization is working with architect Bill Singer of Environmental Works and civil engineer Mark Buehrer of 2020 Engineering on designs with the following features: foundations, pervious pavement and rain gardens to reduce constructed systems for stormwater detention; shared EV Charger in the parking lot; bedroom and bath on the ground floor for accessibility; ad heat pumps and heat pump water heaters for energy efficiency.

The total estimated cost to build the 10 houses is $5.6 million. Because costs to build on the island are so high and wages are so low, the homebuyers’ mortgages will cover around 35% of the cost. OPAL has applied for grants to cover nearly $3 million, leaving just under $1 million that it hopes will be funded by individual donors. For more information, visit