I became a year-round resident of Orcas in 2005. Since then I have become increasingly aware that many people in our community struggle to find a safe and affordable place to live. Several times, a person helping me in a store has asked, “Do you know of a place to rent? My house is becoming a vacation rental and I must move out within a few weeks.” I feel so sad for them. I know there is an extreme shortage of affordable places to live.
The problem is so extreme that some people resort to camping in the woods without adequate toilet facilities. This cannot be good for them, for public health generally or for our environment. With so much dense unhealthy forest, I am concerned about wildfire. Without a source of water to fully quench campfire embers, there is a risk of wildfire, especially during windy dry weather. A catastrophic wildfire could devastate our island.
Affordable housing is naturally modest in size, especially compared to many privately built homes in our islands. The environmental impacts per person are smaller for affordable homes. The home fund initiative will favor low-impact projects.
This is my community. I rely on talented, hard-working island people every day. But a lack of affordable housing is making life ever harder for working people who are essential for our community. I hear of people offered jobs as teachers, chefs, skilled builders, even lawyers, who have declined a job in our county because they cannot afford a place to live. I support the home fund on this November’s ballot because it will help create low-impact affordable homes.