Submitted by Lopez Island Family Resource Center
Lopez Island has a new rental community for working people and their families in its future. Now in full possession of the needed land from San Juan County (the deal closed on Oct. 25), Housing Lopez, Inc., a nonprofit, 501(c)3 organization, is ready to start development.
The planned community will be permanently dedicated to affordable, long-term rental housing. Once completed, the project will be self-sustaining, with rental income supporting ongoing maintenance and administration. The new community, dubbed The FishBay Project, will be located on a 0.80-acre tract of land on Fisherman Bay Road, just north of Morgantown and Coho and east of the Children’s Center. It is the first of several rental communities Housing Lopez hopes to build.
While awaiting closure of its land purchase from San Juan County, Housing Lopez has been hard at work with on-site planning, selecting home designs and construction modes, choosing contractors and other pre-development tasks. Fundraising and financing work are also ongoing. Assuming all financing is in place on schedule, groundbreaking could occur as soon as May 2020.
The Fishbay Project will consist of six two-bedroom, one-bath free-standing rental homes with parking. The design selected meets Housing Lopez’s criteria of being efficient and cost-effective, environmentally sensitive and in keeping with the Lopez look and feel.
Unit rents will be set based on family size, income, and rent levels published by San Juan County. Three of the homes will be affordable for families with incomes as low as 60 percent of median income and three will be affordable for those with income levels from 80 percent up to 115 percent of the median income. Based on current limits reported by the county, for a three-person family at 80 percent of median income ($55,440) rent (including utilities) would not exceed $1,379 per month and could be as low as $1,038 for qualifying households at lower income levels.
The project is expected to be financed with a combination of a bank loan and donations from private individuals and foundations. To date, almost $400,000 has been donated by local residents. The Washington Community Reinvestment Association has indicated that it is very interested in making a loan to this project and supporting the San Juan County investment in Affordable Housing.
Housing Lopez was formed in 2018, as a 501(c)3 organization, to address a growing crisis brewing around a lack of affordable rental housing for Lopez Island residents. This problem has been jeopardizing community stability and economic viability for many years. The school district, health clinic, other health care providers and the fire department, to name a few, have all experienced problems in filling key positions. These problems consistently result from the severe shortage of affordable rental housing opportunities.
Housing Lopez is committed to helping to solve this problem. The organization currently consists of eight board members and nine advisors, all of whom have long-term commitments to the island. This group brings extensive experience in project development, rental-housing management, finance, construction, and community out-reach to assure project success. John Taylor and Joan Egan are the co-chairs, with Rip Van Camp serving as co-chair emeritus. Other board members and Advisors include Linda Floodeen, Barbara Schultheiss, Jeff Daggett, Helen Gamble, Kay Keck, Richard Manderbach, Annie Albritton, Birte Falconer, Jim Ghiglione, Michelle Heller, Angie Lausch and Anne Trench. Bob and Lois Wardell are the project architects.
The FishBay project represents just the first step in bringing some relief to the rental housing crisis on Lopez. Housing Lopez continues to negotiate with potential land sellers so that it will be able to develop future projects that reach an even broader range of rental housing needs in our community.
Housing Lopez invites the community to learn more about the FishBay project and plans for other rental housing development at a meeting from 4-5:30 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 7, at Grace Church, 70 Sunset Ln. Light refreshments will be available.