Vote for home fund measure in November | Guest Column

By the San Juan Island Women’s Group

There’s a game that some islanders are forced to play, over and over, until it’s so entrenched in their lives their children are forced to play it, too, because the rules of the game demand you engage or leave these beautiful islands forever.

The game is called “Find A Place To Live. “And the tragedy is that unlike the dystopian future portrayed in “The Hunger Games” series, this game is real, and it not only creates a state of desperation for those who live with its stress, it tears apart families, erodes businesses and rips at the fabric of all our island communities.

So a large portion of our population works two, three or four different jobs in an effort to cobble together the income it takes to live on one of the San Juan Islands, where tourists get first dibs on homes, apartments and mother-in-law suites.

What’s left are cabins, cob homes, spare rooms in already-crowded houses or spaces inside barns and garages, because that’s all someone making less than $25 an hour can afford here. Unless you’re really into camping in the woods. And if you’re a woman who’s the head of a household with children, the challenges keep coming at you like arrows; fast, relentless and painful.

It’s no wonder that some folks are giving up.

Change needs to happen, and it desperately needs to happen soon, or the islands will continue to lose talented, hard-working and wonderful people because they can’t find an affordable place to call home.

One solution is to vote yes for the affordable housing home fund measure on the ballot this November.

If the home fund measure passes, then starting in 2019, San Juan County would collect 0.5 percent of the selling price of county real estate, with buyers paying 99 percent of that and sellers paying one percent. The tax is expected to raise more than $60 million, attracting $3 to $5 for every dollar it generates in state and federal matching funds and private donations, and would remain in place as long as voters renew it, just like the land bank tax.

Those funds would then be required to be awarded to affordable housing projects, with San Juan County council members making the final decisions on funding.

Help some of your fellow islanders get out of the “Find A Place To Live” game. Vote yes for the home fund tax, and get ready to welcome some new neighbors.