AFFORDABLE HOUSING — WHAT COULD BE DONE
This column is the second on the affordable housing issue. We all know what is needed, but it seems we don’t have a clear vision of how to accomplish it.
Last time I mentioned an affordable housing solution on San Juan Island that appears to have served that island well since its development in 1982. It’s called The Oaks. Located in a rural area and buffered from surrounding properties, most Islanders don’t even think about it and some don’t even know it exists.
In a time of less restrictive zoning regulations, the developer acquired 7 contiguous parcels of rural land totaling approx. 40 acres. They installed streets, sidewalks and utilities serving 76 home sites for double wide manufactured homes. The land is leased to the homeowners who own the units, which can be resold by owners moving off-island, or to other properties. Sales prices have ranged from around $100—$200K depending on location and size of the homes. The property lease includes water, sewer and road maintenance such that the area appears well maintained. There are relatively few sales of these homes because turnover of residents is low.
Today, due to County zoning regulations, it would be almost impossible to do an Oaks. Yet we can see it works and addresses affordable housing needs, at least on San Juan Island by being a product that naturally falls into the right price point. Our County needs to encourage affordable housing development by creating new zoning regulations to allow projects like this to occur today. Of course, the devil is in the details, and zoning modification would have to include safeguards such that neighbors would not be adversely affected.
Orcas Island has areas of forested and/or buffered land where thoughtfully-designed high-density development could occur on otherwise low-density land. This would be an excellent topic for each of us to address with our Commissioners. The time may now be right for such a discussion.
Since I started this column, I have received a fair amount of thoughtful feedback and I encourage you to give me a call or drop by to say hello and discuss any Island issue you feel is important. My intention is to make this column thought provoking and helpful in some small way.
John Dunning, Designated Broker/Owner