This letter is in support of Proposition 1, the Real Estate Excise Tax, or REET, that would help to provide more affordable housing here in the San Juan Islands. Others will address the financial aspects of REET; this letter addresses a different concern.
We will have the chance to vote for the San Juan County Homes Fund in the Nov. 6 election. You may have seen articles and letters in the Journal, seen the booth at the library fair and at other venues, calling us to vote “yes for homes,” not “yes for houses.” This is an important distinction. Many of us come to Orcas and the other islands to call it home; a place to raise children, develop a career, expand our appreciation of nature’s beauty. But a house or an apartment is a necessity in finding a home and the San Juans do not have enough housing to enable all who work here to call the islands “home.” They must spend disproportionate amounts on transportation, gas for their cars, daily trips on the ferry and time away from their families. A win for “yes for homes” in November can dramatically increase the availability of affordable housing in San Juan County and ensure that we address the lack of opportunity for working people to live here and for employers to fully staff their businesses.
The land bank is one of the best things about this county and was one of the things that drew us here over 11 years ago. It was and is an indicator of some of the values we deem critical for a healthy community. Now a huge bonus is that the land bank’s excise tax is an avenue to address a critical need: the ability to piggyback on that legislation to set up a mechanism for helping to solve the undeniable issue of housing, most importantly low- and medium-income housing in our county. This is a critical issue for the entire community.
Affordable housing is a huge issue in our islands which needs to be addressed. What many voters don’t know is that there are some neighbors who highly resent folks who strive to live in a home they can afford, who work to realize the American dream.
As a case manager for the San Juan Island Family Resource Center, one of the significant components of my work is helping clients with rental assistance. Navigating a system with limited resources for a growing number of people who cannot find long-term, sustainable housing is extremely challenging, and at times disheartening. Watching the light of hope leaving someone’s eyes when I tell them there is a one- to two-year wait-list for a rental unit is difficult to shake off. I have also seen a disturbing trend of the workforce that vitally sustains this community having to move off island because they could not find decent housing for a reasonable price. Therefore, I wholeheartedly and passionately support Proposition 1 on the November ballot. I urge you to support hope and vote yes for homes!