Annexation opponent selling land to Homes for Islanders for affordable housing

Developer Michael Mayes of Madison Glenn Properties wrote in a Journal column Oct. 17 that under current zoning regulations, the maximum number of homes which can be built in Friday Harbor is 2,219.

"In our town’s first 100 years of history, we have produced a total of just under 1,000 residences," he wrote. "This means that only 45 percent of our existing residential development rights have been used in 100 years."

His point: That annexation of the so-called Buck property for the San Juan Community Home Trust's proposed affordable-housing neighborhood was unnecessary and costly.

Monday, Mayes and Homes for Islanders announced that Madison Glenn is selling three acres on Malcolm Street to Homes for Islanders for development of up to 44 affordable homes. Mayes is reducing the sales price from $1.8 million to $1.2 million.

That price breaks down to about $27,000 a unit.

“We are pleased to be able to make a meaningful contribution to the island’s future affordable housing needs," Mayes said in a press release. "This is just one example of how we can work as a community to provide home ownership without further burdening the town financially.”

Homes for Islanders administrator Justin Roche said "Madison Glenn approached us several months ago" about purchasing the land, at the time that Mayes was stepping up his criticism of the San Juan Community Home Trust project.

Roche saw no controversy.

"It was a deal that came along that looked right for us, so we jumped on it," he said. "I'm very hesitant to say it has anything to do with what the Home Trust is doing. Both projects will be a drop in the bucket" in meeting the island's housing need.

Roche said the Malcolm Street property "takes pressure off us in looking for new pieces of land."

Homes for Islanders buys land and helps limited-income families build their own homes, and provides assistance in obtaining low-interest loans from USDA Rural Housing. No downpayment is needed. Homeowners are required to work 35 hours a week on building their homes. Each homeowner owns his or her home and land. Resale price is restricted; the home must be affordable to a moderate-income household, currently about $61,750 per four-person household.

Homes for Islanders built Leeward Cove, an eight-home neighborhood, in 2006; and Rocky Bay, an eight-home neighborhood, in 2007. Nine townhomes are being built at Park Plaza, across the street from the San Juan Island Library. Roche said it is qualifying two final future homeowners for Woodland Estates, an eight-home neighborhood near Rosario on Orcas Island.

Roche expects a mix of townhomes and duplexes on the Malcolm Street site. Vehicular access would be from Malcolm Street; there would be pedestrian access from Grover Street, across the street from Friday Harbor Elementary School. Roche foresees building eight to 10 homes a year, with construction beginning in summer 2010.

The announcement comes a little more than a week before the Town Council's public hearing on the proposed Buck property annexation, Nov. 20, 5:30 p.m., in the San Juan Island Grange.

The Buck family and the San Juan Community Home Trust are working together to design a new neighborhood on a 46.5-acre parcel located between Grover Street and Turn Point Road. Thirty acres would be retained by the Buck family; they would sell 15 acres at below-market rate to the Home Trust for development of permanently affordable housing.

But for the project to move forward, the property must be annexed into the town so the Bucks and the Home Trust have access to town utilities. Project supporters have urged the town to annex before the end of the year, saying the Home Trust will lose grant funding for the project if it doesn't.

The town is concerned about the cost of extending utility service to the site and the impact on utility rates.

Nancy DeVaux, director of the San Juan Community Home Trust, doubts the Madison Glenn-Homes for Islanders deal will influence the council’s decision on annexation.

“I don’t think it will have an impact. I doubt (Homes for Islanders) has all the funding and the homebuyers in place to get started immediately. I do think the need is there.”

DeVaux said a county Housing Bank states about 600 affordable homes are needed on the island. “The town said it needs 120 units of affordable housing during the (Urban Growth Area) hearings. So, the need over the next several decades is only projected to increase. We have a plan and funding in place to get started immediately.”

San Juan Community Home Trust developed the Salal Neighborhood on Carter Avenue. Under its program, it buys and retains ownership of the land. It builds the homes, which are sold to qualifying low-income homebuyers. The increase in resale price is restricted by a formula tied to the area median income.

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