Yes for Homes Coalition supports San Juan County Home Fund | Guest column

The Yes for Homes Coalition of San Juan County is a grassroots, volunteer, nonpartisan county-wide group determined to pass the San Juan County Home Fund initiative on Nov. 6.

This proposed home fund is a carefully constructed government intervention, that comes after years of broad public outcry that continued housing inertia is unacceptable. This is an affirmative push toward achieving the greatest good for the greatest number of people. We like to say that this half-percent real estate excise tax “harnesses the problem in order to fund the solution.”

Let’s call this excise tax our ace in the hole for housing; a custom tool in our toolbox that other counties can only envy. Communities beyond counting are flailing. But over 790 communities nation-wide are today employing similar housing trust fund models using local revenue sources to overcome community-crippling housing trends.

Our island communities are not equitable, particularly stable nor economically efficient. Especially if you happen to be one of the hundreds of lower-income people or seniors or folks with special needs, trying to settle into life here. They are standing at the bottom of a narrow stairway looking up at the island version of the American Dream, the social construct of a bright outcome promised by building skills, steady hard work, living within your means and building equity. All the while these workers, crowded at the bottom steps, provide essential services to those standing above. Our chronic lack of affordable housing stock is like having several consecutive lower stairway steps rotted out or missing entirely.

Half of our residents today could be eligible to seek a home within a wider range of realistic rents and mortgages over time with this affordable housing build-out. This particular tax initiative raises the ceiling for housing subsidies for moderate-income families to 115 percent of area median income. Unlike any other form of taxation, it does not harm seniors and those with special needs living on fixed incomes, nor the vast majority of us who rarely buy or sell real estate.

We all benefit daily from remarkable levels of volunteerism. Yes, retirees tend to have time to re-invest in our collective well-being but so do energetic working people who can count on the stability of reasonable housing costs. Think of your neighbors: volunteer firefighters, EMTs, trail builders, oil spill responders, caregivers and the like who perform these necessary community duties.

We believe that the many individual successes and synergistic community-scale benefits over time will nurture stable families that work hard to advance in life and gain home equity, enroll their kids in our good schools, spend locally, start small businesses and join us in paying property taxes.

“Our future will not be determined by chance. It will be determined by choice”, reminds scientist David Suzuki.

This home fund proposition 1 is the essence of community self-determination; exactly the right thing, at the right time, for all the right reasons. Please join us and vote yes for the home fund on Nov. 6.