Awareness of housing problem | Letters

We continually hear of the acute need for permanently affordable housing on our islands. Not necessarily housing for seasonal workers or those who wish to have a vacation home. We are talking about our islanders who are the fabric of a viable community: teachers, EMTs, actors and musicians, artists, elderly care givers, Town and County employees, retail owners and staff, auto and marine mechanics.

I had the privilege of being the San Juan Community Home Trust’s chair for its annual fund raiser in July, Fiesta San Juan. One of the more pleasant aspects of this was to secure enticing, fun items for our raffle and auction. This venture took me all over both San Juan and Orcas islands.

The stories that were shared with me are compelling: employees who could no longer live in their rental home as it was being turned into a vacation rental and, therefore, wound up living in their employer’s business office; employees who lived in tents…until the weather turned awful and then there were scrambles for some sort of more suitable shelter; outrageous rents for a small bedroom to call home; cars and vans often being the answer; retail shop owners who needed affordable housing themselves.

Or take the employers who, because there is, not “was” but “is”, such a shortage of suitable homes and housing and, therefore, employees to do the work, have had to cut back on their services.

Lest you think that there are oodles of state and federal funds for affordable housing, best to think again. For the home trust, only 20 percent of these funds come our way which is proving to be infrequent, and potentially more so. The bulk of the trust’s funding (80 percent comes from those who have a very clear knowledge that their personal assistance is invaluable.

If nothing else, awareness of what we, as a community, are facing permanently affordable housing, is paramount. The home trust and all the other agencies dealing with this urgent issue must count on everyone’s awareness and participation. Please, ask yourself how you can be a part of the solution.

Gay Graham

San Juan Community Home Trust, board member