Town affordable homes project stalled | Letter

As a long-time island resident who is very concerned about the impact that the extreme shortage of affordable housing here is having on the health of our community, I was pretty distressed to learn that the Home Trust, a primary contributor to increasing our local affordable housing options, has recently been put in the untenable position of not being able to complete its sale to the future homeowners of the eight homes it constructed as part of its HolliWalk project in Town.

The building of these homes has been completed — and the future owners are already living in them — but because of a major dispute between the Home Trust and the Town Council, the purchasers are currently only allowed to rent their new homes rather than to actually buy them as had been the clear intent of the housing developers.

My understanding of the situation is that back in 2020, the Home Trust secured the specific building permits that the Town told them were required for construction of the project. These permits did NOT require any specific improvements (such as sidewalks and street lighting) along Holli Place, the narrow, dead-end street on which the small housing development was to be located.

After the homes were completed last fall, Home Trust staff were totally taken aback when told by the Town that in order to sell the homes rather than just rent them, they would have needed to apply for a different type of building permit. Now, in order to sell them, the Home Trust is being required by the Town to put in sidewalks, curbs, gutters, and street lighting on Holli Place, at a cost of more than $300,000. Obviously, if the Home Trust had been given the correct information by Town staff in the first place, the design and financing of the project would have been done differently!

After getting this totally unanticipated requirement, the Home Trust decided to approach the people who had been planning on buying the eight homes, as well as the other residents on the street, to ask whether they wanted their small neighborhood street upgraded as the Town was insisting. (Note: the required improvements would have brought Holli Place up to standards similar to those that applied to Spring Street.) Everyone said no. But the position taken by Town staff was that someday, there would be dozens of additional homes built on Holli Place, and at that time the residents would likely want the street improvements.

The Home Trust, in the spirit of compromise, recently presented a proposal to the Town that seeks to address this possibility. They have offered to install the street improvements being requested if and when there is sufficient additional development on Holli Place. This proposal will be considered by the Town Council at its meeting on May 16 at noon.

The Home Trust is asking for the community’s support in urging the Town Council to accept the compromise. You can do this either by attending Thursday’s meeting, or by emailing your comments prior to the meeting to the Council members:

Steve Hushebeck (

Richard Geffen (

Anna Maria de Freitas (

Mason Turnage (

Barbara Starr (

Thank you,

Lori Stokes,

San Juan Island