Affordable future is a matter of will
June 9, 2008 · Updated 3:12 PM
"When we set out a few weeks ago to tackle the issue of affordable housing on Bainbridge Island, we weren't sure where we'd wind up. Boiling down the market whims and social forces that are driving the gentrification of the island, and examining how best to harness the community's resources and collective will to blunt those forces a bit, was daunting.Of course, if the issue was simple to explain, it would be simple to address. It's not. Numerous interviews, hours of research and six news stories on, we've found cause for hope and equal cause for pessimism. But most of all, we've found need. Some ideas and images will stick with us, emblematic of the issues at hand: * The pride in the faces of those in the Strawberry Place self-help community, where thanks to the county housing authority and a willing developer, nine young families are building their modest dream homes;* The plight of poorly paid new school teachers, police officers and other public employees, as they try to put down roots on the island and take their place in our neighborhoods;* The single affordable home that, because of a zoning-code eccentricity, will be constructed on a five-acre lot - a crazy, crazy waste of land and opportunity;* The now infamous comments that have followed proposals for affordable projects around the island - it's a ghetto...what kind of people will live there...they say the police in Beverly Hills don't live in Beverly Hills.In coming up with a title for this series, we posed the question: A Roof For All? Implicit in the phrasing was not the issue of whether we can put an end to local homelessness - itself a worthy goal - but rather, will there be room on Bainbridge Island for all economic classes?A long-time resident once noted that the really special thing about Bainbridge Island was that you could go to a cocktail party and see your mailman.Sadly, with each new mansion that goes up, with each longtime family that moves away, with each public employee forced to live on the far side of the bridge, those days wane.In that, we are all the poorer.We hope that throughout this series, we've laid out the issues for consideration, and that as the island's comprehensive plan review picks up steam, the successes and failures of our affordable housing efforts will be given due consideration.After that, it comes down to a matter of...will.The willingness of developers to go along with affordable housing programs, and of city planners to be sensible and accommodating in the application of local codes to make such projects work.The goodwill of the neighbors, to accept the construction of smaller homes and rental units in their area.The political will of the mayor and city council to remember the need, and stand up for the cause.Affordable housing can happen. We hope and pray that it will. "