There are many variables to the affordable housing crisis, so it is not surprising that proposed solutions are scrutinized for effectiveness and consequences.
Where this year’s “Yes For Homes” campaign for Proposition 1 has been impressive is the degree the proposed half-percent real estate excise tax, or REET, to be paid mostly by buyers, has elicited an overwhelmingly positive response.
No doubt this positive sentiment results from a recognition of the urgency of the problem, even greater now than in 2006, when a similar measure failed at the ballot box.
There is also a long-standing sense of fairness that taxes should be targeted as close as possible to the problem they are trying to address. So the REET seems to be the right tool for real estate sales and rentals made unaffordable by prices chasing the top of the market.
The REET is not a silver bullet. Unfortunately, it is possible some islanders planning to buy homes, myself included, may need to have a little more cash due to the REET. But the potential benefits far outweigh the negatives for islanders with average incomes. The REET will create a flexible pool of ongoing funding, awarded on a competitive basis, to projects addressing as many facets of housing affordability as there are effective and innovative ideas. These can include support for construction and preservation of affordable ownership and rental units, and expansion of existing programs providing closing costs and down payment assistance.
The people of this county demonstrate on a regular basis how much we care for our own: we support social services; we hold fundraisers to help with medical bills and on San Juan we built a hospital. I know we will now show the same caring on affordable housing by voting yes on Proposition 1. Public funding on this issue has depended on federal and state funds, which are unpredictable and declining. It is only right that the voters in this compassionate, expensive and low-tax community support a local public contribution in the form of a REET.
David S. Gow
San Juan Community Home Trust