Island’s housing needs are moving along

Island’s housing needs are moving along

by Diane Craig

Staff reporter

The last time Orcas Island saw the construction of a significant number of new, affordable rentals, George H.W. Bush replaced Ronald Reagan as U.S. president, “Rain Man” won the Oscar for best picture, Seinfield and the Simpsons premiered on TV and the Berlin Wall came down.

It’s been a while.

That’s about to change as construction begins on April’s Grove, the 45-unit OPAL development on North Beach Road in Eastsound.

Why has it taken so long?

“For years, the driving force of the land trust has been toward getting people into homeownership to build wealth and encourage financial stability, especially in rural areas,” according to Crystal Mossman, communications manager for OPAL Community Land Trust. In the last five to seven years, however, the island’s stock of long-term rentals has decreased.

“There’s a multitude of reasons why this is happening,” she said. “But the fact is, the island’s economy depends on the availability of affordable housing. That construction has started on 45 new apartments is exciting!”

Funding and rising construction costs, due in part to tariffs on Canadian imports of aluminum and soft wood, have proven to be a challenge. And, though the project is still $250,000 shy of being fully funded, thanks to a grant from the Washington State Housing Finance Commission, construction is once again underway.

Local fundraising efforts, in partnership with Orcas Island Community Foundation, will continue with a multi-event campaign beginning June 29.

Named in honor of an old bovine and former Eastsound mayor who had made the adjacent apple orchard her home, the 45 new units of April’s Grove will include four studios, 11 one-bedroom, 16 two-bedroom and 14 three-bedroom units. Rents will be calculated based on income with priority given to families with children, homeless persons, people with disabilities, seniors, veterans and victims of domestic violence. The application process will begin in early 2020 but Mossman encourages anyone interested in renting to communicate their interest to OPAL Community Land Trust.