Opinion

Affordable housing project needs help

Hello neighbors.

I am a single mom, work in Winslow and rent a home on the island. I am a member of the Housing Resources Board, our local nonprofit dedicated to diversity through affordable housing. I write this appeal on behalf of all members of HRB.

Brian MacWhorter, owner of Butler Green Farms, has farmed on Bainbridge Island for 24 years and sells his organic, island-grown produce every Saturday at the Farmer’s Market. He and his wife, Amy, a school nurse, would live on the island if they could afford to, but own a house in Poulsbo instead. Brian tells me, “I consider myself an islander. I just drive across the bridge to go to sleep.”

My daughter, Oshi, talks to me almost daily about her 4th grade teacher, Lynn Allee, recounting classroom discussions about the universe, equality and fractions. Perhaps if Lynn had chosen to continue her career in the legal profession, she would own a house on the island. As it is, she chose to teach our kids and thus her salary provides for only rent payments.

Susan Calhoun, the mastermind behind Town and Country’s July 4th parade entries, has been a checker at the market for 28 years and lives in Suquamish. “Most of my friends live on the island and the store is like my family,” she says. A couple of years ago she looked into buying a home in Winslow. In considering fees and taxes added to a mortgage, she found that even the lowest-priced condo was beyond her means.

A farmer, a teacher, and a store employee – all deeply entrenched in our community in varying ways. What is needed to make it possible for these folks and others of moderate income to afford home ownership on the island? How about a few donated acres of land, a community land trust and island residents who value a vibrant, diverse community. Oh, and $100,000 by July 1.

The land has been offered, the Housing Resources Board has created a community land trust, and most islanders value diversity. The rest is up to all us neighbors.

Let me explain.

A very generous, long-time islander has committed to donate 5.6 acres of land on Ferncliff Avenue to HRB’s community land trust for the purpose of providing home ownership to those who cannot afford market rates. However, wisely enough, the donor wants to ensure that the island community values affordable housing enough to invest in it, and so has conditioned the gift. This is where our appeal for funds comes in. For HRB to receive the donated land, we must raise $100,000 by July 1. These funds will guarantee receipt of the gift, and will support the beginning stages of developing more than homes.

Similar in spirit and purpose to a conservation land trust that preserves open space and farmland, a community land trust acquires and holds land on behalf of the community for affordable housing. By contributing to the project, you are investing in homes that will always provide home ownership to folks who are not able to pay market rate. (When a home owner decides to move on, they must sell to another moderate-income buyer.) The return for investment, then, is the opportunity for our farmers, teachers, clerks, emergency personnel, nurses, seniors, single parents, young families and others to share with you the richness of calling Bainbridge Island home.

This is an opportunity for the community to take ownership of the effort to provide affordable housing on the island. We ask that all our neighbors participate, whether you can provide a large contribution (as an anonymous contributor has done, in the amount of $10,000) or a more modest one (as I have done, in the amount of $40). Please invest in preserving a community diverse in varying professions, backgrounds, ages, talents and means.

If you’d like more information about the Ferncliff project and the Community Land Trust, give us a call at 842-1909. If you are inspired to invest today, mail your tax-deductible contribution before July 1 to P.O. Box 11391, Bainbridge Island, WA, 98110.

Thank you. We are excited to begin building community with you.

Sue Transeaux works as a marketing professional on Bainbridge Island.

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