Housing discussed at San Juan Island Visitors Bureau’s luncheon

Housing discussion at Visitors' Bureau Luncheon.

“Housing was on the menu” at the annual San Juan Island Visitors Bureau’s luncheon Oct. 26 at Brickworks. Melanie Rollins, the affordable housing coordinator for San Juan County, shared the recent results of the task force called the Housing Workgroup.

“It’s thanks to Mark Tompkins [director of Health and Human Services Department who spearheaded the work group] who realized there were two main things we needed to do: leadership and action,” said Rollins.

Taking both leadership and action, the Housing Workgroup, which includes members of the council, the town, construction and real estate businesses, as well as community citizens began brainstorming and analyzing the housing crisis, according to Rollins. They talked about the definition of affordable housing, issues that impede reasonably priced homes in the county including land and infrastructure costs, utility costs, and lagging wages as well as loss of availability due to vacation rentals.

The workgroup came up with possible strategic plans Rollins said, ranging from limiting vacation rentals, updating the Housing NeedsAssessment, giving incentives for those property owners who rent their ADU’s (Attached Dwelling Units) long term, year round, and working to develop a public and private partnership to build affordable housing.

Town Administrator Duncan Wilson, and council members Bob Jarman and Rick Hughes were also at the luncheon to answer questions.

One attendee asked if solutions will be in place for the summer season next year and if the crisis would be solved quickly.

“There is no quick fix,” Jarman said, but he added that a connector road will be built on Pear Point, opening up 100 acres for residential housing, which he added he hopes will help.

Rollins gave a plea for action on the part of individual community members.

“Talk to people, to council members, attend public meetings and read the housing element of the San Juan County Comprehensive Plan,”she said, explaining that the housing updates will be due in 2017.

“This is a huge problem,” said Rollins. ”We have to work together.”