A call to action on housing | Guest Column

By Sam Buck.

Many years ago I accepted an invitation to become a board member of the San Juan Community Home Trust (SJCHT) primarily for one reason with many implications. I said, “I want to live in a community that has children.” It was obvious to me that if those providing services come from other areas, that is where their children will be going to school.

As is becoming more and more painfully evident, the cost of housing has, and is, pricing out those who provide the many services that we all depend on for our quality of life. Our current stable base of service providers who have homes is diminishing due to retirement, injuries, etc. Because we are such a desirable place to live, very fortunately, we don’t seem to lose too many to other areas.

Our leaders must move this issue to the front of the line, as our entire economy depends on having affordable quality housing. Who will be our teachers, police, medical providers, EMTs, restaurant service providers, secretaries, house cleaners, electricians, plumbers, mechanics, clerks, technicians and the many other service providers not mentioned?

We are far behind the curve now so in the short term it is going to get worse before it gets better. If we are to avoid a long-term disaster, our leaders must take up the challenge with great determination to create a long-term solution.

Ideas to consider:

1) Reverse the division of funding for the Land Bank such that their one percent goes to affordable housing and they receive the current .5% affordable housing excise tax.

2) Identify suitable properties to develop currently owned by the Land Bank (we the County) in ways that minimize impacts to sought-after views or other attributes.

3) Utilize the San Juan Community Trust format, wherein the home is fully owned with all traditional rights except ownership of the underlying land. The land is owned by a trust and appreciation is limited to the rise in local wages. The owner gains equity with each mortgage payment, gets to write off their mortgage interest, bequeath their home, make improvements, or sell to another who qualifies, of whom there are many. In return for a much lower entry point, the Trust homeowners accept the limitations knowing that each home created is forever affordable.

4) We need both affordable quality rentals to have a way for people to determine if they are ready to make the long-term commitment to buying a home that creates stability for that party as well as for the greater community.

5) Lastly, what can you do? A) be aware and grateful that many in our community have donated to the various Trusts including some of our county’s largest employers. It takes huge amounts of money to make a difference so they can’t carry that load on their own. B) Make your voices heard. Call or write to your County Council representative. Be determined, step up, a little commotion is not enough. Even with immediate action, the need is here now. C) There are Home Trusts on each island with the experience and knowledge to create the kind of forever affordable quality homes that quality people need to consider making our County their home, some of which will raise their children here. Provide them with the land, (which we have) and the funding (which we are already collecting but need more of) and they will solve this urgent need for all of us. How else will it get done?