In favor of affordable home initiative | Letters

Orcas multiple listings today show four homes under $300,000: two Eastsound condos and two livable houses. Could a salaried worker on Orcas buy one of these? Let’s work the numbers.

First huge hurdle: banks require a down payment of at least 20 percent – e.g., $60,000.

Next, banks will usually approve a home loan only if the mortgage, insurance and tax payments will not exceed about one-third of the buyer’s gross income. Zillow Mortgage Calculator says that monthly mortgage payments on a $240,000 loan at today’s 5 percent x 30-year rate, plus average taxes and insurance, would be about $1,550 per month. Thus, gross income of the person or the couple buying would have to be at least $4,650 per month to qualify. A person or a couple working 40 hours a week year-round would need a steady combined income of about $27 per hour to get this loan. Really!

Facing these formidable challenges, a salaried worker might try to RENT a place to live on Orcas. While looking up the multiple listings, I also looked up the vacation rentals by owner (VRBO) listings for Orcas Island. There were 447 VRBOs advertised in October, ranging on average from $200-$300 rent PER DAY! I have to ask: if you owned an unoccupied Orcas house, why in the world would you rent or lease it year-round, even at $1,600 per month, when you can VRBO it for three months of the year and make the same amount, with one quarter as much wear on the house? There go 447 possible rentals for Orcas year-round salaried workers.

Folks, let’s get REAL. If we need a workforce of year-round salaried workers on Orcas – which we most certainly do – then we also need year-round homes which those workers can buy or rent. Join me in voting YES for the Affordable Homes initiative.

Norm Zimlich

Deer Harbor