03/15/2017: "New Taxes &/or Fees To Pay For Affordable Housing?"
(Mark Tompkins presents plan to LOWV meeting - full photo below)
San Juan County has been complaining and discussing the lack of affordable housing for low and middle class wage earners for decades, with community meetings, study groups and draft plans, and now there is a new draft Plan (StrategicActionPlanDraft-AppendixA.docx (35\k file)) that is being discussed, and is posed to start moving forward through required hearings and comment periods.
Nothing too new in the Plan from past suggestions and false starts, but this one may turn out to have some legs to it…maybe; depending if the “top five prioritized actions” receive support from the County Council and the public The five items are:
1. Identify and pass a local affordable housing funding measure.
2. Develop a capital account to be used to purchase existing units when available.
3. Expand home repair and weatherization programs.
4. Develop a public/private partnership program to build affordable housing units and explore using publicly owned land to construct units.
5. Regulate vacation rentals (e.g. yearly permit with fees, inspections, ensure lodging tax is collected, add an impact fee to be used for affordable housing).
The first obvious question -after will the public support funding measures for any or all of these priorities- is why are we concerned about affordable housing in the first place?
The answers to that question depends in part on who responds, but the Plan quotes the original land use comprehensive plan that stated one of the goals of the plan should be to ““Foster a sense of neighborliness and community pride so that there is housing for people of all incomes.”
And that includes providing housing for workers for businesses in the county. To what extent this is a driving force of the Plan may or may not be reflected in the list of the 15 authors of the Plan, 6 of whom are local business owners; 2 affordable housing non-profits; two school districts, and the rest were various members at different levels of local county and Town of Friday Harbor government.
As for the Plan, it identifies housing needs in six categories:
Number 1: Long-term Rentals; Serving individuals making between $15 - $20/hour;
Rent Range $700 - $1,200/month.
Number 2: Long-term Rentals (studios & one-bedroom units); Serving individuals with
limited or fixed incomes; Rent Range $0 - $700/month.
Number 3: Long-term Rentals; Serving Individuals making over $20/hour; Rent Range $1,200 - $2,000
Number 4: Short-term, Reduced Amenity Housing (e.g. dorms, studios, shared occupancy); Serving Seasonal Temporary Worker; Rent Range $400 - $500/month
Number 5: Homeownership; Price Range $80,000 - $275,000
Number 6: Housing with Supportive Services (e.g. Transitional or Group Housing).
But the Plan does not stop there. It also suggests “a capital account to be used to purchase existing units” that would then be used to provide affordable housing.
Another suggestion that has always had support from some home owners is to change existing regulations to allow construction of guest houses where now not allowed, but these would not be allowed to be used for short term rentals.
How to acquire the information needed to move forward is projected to be time consuming, since it requires, at a minimum, buy-in by the voters.
Than means various campaigns and election issues will be forthcoming, and the Plan projects from 6 months to 2 years before some of the ideas could be put into effect; and that of course assumes they are approved as official policy, and prevail from the legal challenges that one may expect would be forthcoming, no matter what is suggested.
Read the draft plan StrategicActionPlanDraft-AppendixA.docx (35\k file)