As the owner of local businesses, it’s easy for Anna Maria de Freitas to see a housing shortage on San Juan Island.
“It has been difficult to hire employees as there is a limited inventory of long-term rentals,” said de Freitas, who owns Coho restaurant, Tucker House Inn and Harrison House Suites.
As a way to “give back to the community,” de Freitas and her husband David Pass purchased a little more than a half acre on Guard Street in March to add five tiny houses as year-round rentals. Tenants are scheduled to move in by Dec. 15.
Four of the 400-square-foot homes are still available to rent at $1,350 a month, which includes water, sewer, trash, and recycling fees. Each one-bedroom unit can accommodate up to two tenants and a pet, said de Freitas, and includes a metal roof, deck, stackable washer and dryer, and a full-size kitchen with stove, microwave, dishwasher, and refrigerator. A four-foot loft can serve as storage and there is a walk-in shower.
The structures were built with wheels and axels by an Idaho company and are now mounted on concrete.
Duncan Wilson, the administrator for the Town of Friday Harbor, said this complies with the town’s regulations, which does not allow residents to live in dwellings with wheels, like an RV, in most residential zones.
Last summer, the houses arrived by ferry, already constructed. However, the project was delayed for three months, said de Freitas, when the Samish — the only ferry tall enough to transport the houses — stopped running to fix repairs.
“We were sitting on a huge capital outlay with no way to finish the project until the ferry came back into service,” she said, as barges were too expensive for the project.
Now with the project almost complete, de Freitas said the minimalist lifestyle provide by tiny homes will mirror the island’s culture.
“Tiny houses embrace our green island values,” she said. “[They] have all the features of a larger house in a smaller footprint so they are energy efficient and a greener way of living.”
Despite the small size, de Freitas explained market rates drive the price of the rentals. She noted that the construction was not supplemented by the government, through tax incentives or loans, which some multifamily complexes use to offer income-based rent.
Yet, she’s interested in providing affordable dwellings too. As chairwoman of the San Juan County Housing Commission, de Freitas said she “led the charge” to find solutions, including the committee’s plan to develop a long-term funding stream for affordable workforce housing.
Wilson said both new dwellings would be assets to the town.
“Whether it’s tiny homes, apartments, condos, or houses, I welcome all of them in town because we have shortages in all areas,” he said.
For more information about availability, contact de Freitas at firstname.lastname@example.org.