More affordable housing on the horizon

Submitted by Housing Lopez.

On June 23, more than 35 Lopez residents gathered at the Lopez Community Center to learn about Housing Lopez’s next affordable rental housing plans and share ideas. Housing Lopez, Inc, a local non-profit committed to increasing affordable rental housing on the island, completed their first project, the six-cottage FishBay community last year, but they are quite aware that this is just a first step in addressing a much larger need.

At the June meeting, Housing Lopez unveiled plans to build 40 new units over the next six to ten years on a 9.8-acre property that extends along Weeks Road from Fisherman Bay Road to just past the Post Office. The plan calls for clustering the new community along Weeks Road, allowing Housing Lopez to preserve and enhance the extensive wetlands on the north side of the parcel. Tentative plans also call for the Food Center to bring their operations to the area of the parcel closest to the Lopez Island Family Resource Center.

Next up for Housing Lopez development is to address Lopez’s most pressing need, housing for people with low- to moderate-income, defined as 30 to 115% of Area Median Income (AMI). Potential renters who fall in this category will likely include working people, either single or with families, seniors, people with disabilities, and some who are currently homeless or at risk of becoming so.

To develop its long-term plan, Housing Lopez commissioned experts in affordable housing (GS Affordable Housing Rural) to conduct a needs assessment for our island. Their June 2022 report reveals that behind the beautiful landscapes and our wonderful community of people, Lopez is struggling with a housing crisis.

More than 450 Lopez households earn less than 60% of the median income for our area. Within this income category, 80% are small, one- or two-person households that either rent or own their home. The assessment identified 227 senior homeowners who are finding it difficult to maintain their homes and reports that 40% (137) of Lopez households that rent are paying more than a third of their income on housing. Neighbors in this situation may have trouble covering basic needs like food, childcare, transportation, and health care. In the official terms of needs assessments, they are classified as “housing cost-burdened.”

The mission of Housing Lopez, formed in 2018, as a 501(c)3 organization, is to help our community address these problems by creating enough affordable rental housing to meet our growing crisis. Lack of such housing has been jeopardizing community stability and economic viability for many years. The school district, health clinic, other health care providers, and fire department, to name a few, have all experienced problems in filling key positions because of the dearth of affordable rentals here on Lopez. Housing Lopez, with the help of fellow islanders and local and county government, is committed to solving this problem.