We are extremely fortunate to live on this beautiful island, but staying here is a daily struggle for many of the people who provide the services we depend on. Housing prices have surged in the San Juan Islands over the past 10 years, but wages have stayed low. Our county has the second highest per capita income (including passive income), but the next to lowest average wages, of all counties in Washington.
As an OPAL Board member, I have learned how difficult it is for many people to live here. We have had teachers, health care workers, OPALCO employees, firefighters, retail service workers, business owners and artists apply to purchase or rent OPAL homes. Employers tell OPAL they struggle to hire employees, primarily because of the high cost of housing.
That is why the Yes for Homes campaign was created – to help provide funding to create affordable housing for the people we depend on in our daily lives.
There is no typical OPAL homeowner or renter, but many elements of their stories are similar. Some have been approved for bank financing, but can’t find decent housing they can afford. Others are losing a long-term rental due to the sale of the property or return of a member of the landlord’s family. Many end up in temporary or substandard housing while they search for a permanent home. Others get discouraged and leave the island.
OPAL works hard to meet the need for affordable housing on Orcas but the cost of building affordable housing projects has increased steadily over the years. Our community has been extremely generous, but private philanthropy is not enough to fund these projects. A combination of grants, loans, governmental funding and private giving is necessary.
The Yes for Homes ballot measure will provide an additional source of funding that OPA could use as seed money to obtain grants, government or private financing.
Please vote Yes in November.
OPAL Board Member and Chair, Fundraising Committee