Chamber recognizes islander Bill Gendron and listens to Auditor Natasha Warmenhoven

During the first quarterly luncheon of the San Juan Island Chamber of Commerce Jan. 25, Bill Gendron was awarded the Sam R. Buck Community Spirit Award for his work for Homes for Islanders and listened to newly elected Auditor Natasha Warmenhoven speak on the current state of the county financials.

“My dad [Sam Buck] was a visionary,” Steve Buck said as he presented the award. “He loved service and people.”

The chamber has been awarding islanders that exude community spirit for years. Gendron founded the non-profit organization Homes for Islanders, which built affordable homes through a sweat equity program for people who otherwise would not be able to purchase a home locally. Over seventeen years, Homes for Islanders build 129 houses, and there has been very little turnover from the original homeowners. While homeowners under this model are not restricted from selling their homes for top dollar, only two homes sold for a great profit, and only one has been foreclosed on.

“These homeowners are teachers, electricians, plumbers, waitresses. The people living in those homes are a huge part of our community,” Steve said.

Gendron thanked the homeowners, staff volunteers and thousands of community supporters as he accepted the award. Warmenhoven broke down the county’s expenses and revenues for luncheon attendees. While most items seemed to be on target, grants had decreased due to COVID, lodging was down from a booming 2021, and there were indications the real estate market was slowing, Warmenhoven said.

Those indications were approximately $10 million dollars less in Land Bank Excise taxes, permits had slowed, and transaction recording at the auditor’s office had also slowed.

Steve Buck pointed out that higher interest rates and a lack of inventory were some of the reasons behind the slowdown, but as a realtor himself, noted that the market appeared to be picking back up again. Warmenhoven added that properties had been selling unusually fast.

“The slowdown really just means it’s back on track,” Warmenhoven said.

Heather Spaulding  Staff photo
Steve Buck and Bill Gendron
Heather Spaulding  Staff photo
Auditor Natasha Warmenhoven.