County needs to deal with housing crisis now


Is affordable housing important to our county commissioners?

An article in the Dec. 20 Whidbey News-Times refers to a housing needs analysis which the county commissioners recently reviewed and where Commissioner Rick Hannold was quoted as saying it “was eye opening.”

Opened because the analysis identified a current deficit of over 1,000 units for households making between $25,000 and $49,000? Or that over one-third of Island County households are cost burdened spending more than 30 percent of their annual income on housing?

The report goes on to identify a population increase of 23,000 new residents from 1990 through 2016, an increase of 38 percent or 1.2 percent per year.

Another article in the Dec. 27 issue talks of the county commissioners plans for 2018 and the suggestion that the JPA boundaries is a rollover and most likely will not be addressed in 2018. Commissioner Jill Johnson is quoted as saying “I want to be consistent in the messaging that we are taking a break from that conversation this year; we had it last year.” The JPA boundaries are the first step to enlarge the Urban Growth Area (UGA), a potential path to solving the housing crisis.

The county intends to open the county comprehensive plan in 2018, and when they do, they really need to address housing and the current crisis. The current 2016 comprehensive plan population forecast estimates appear to be very inaccurate and should be reviewed.

Population estimates are the foundation to planning, which guide the county for the Urban Growth Area. Island County’s current comprehensive plan 2016 estimates the population in 2036 will be 87,917 people, an increase of 6 percent or .57 percent per year.

How can this be, knowing the county just grew 38 percent over the past 25 years at 1.2 percent per year?

This represents a potential miss of 10,414 people or 1,267 households. The county is guided by the State Office of Financial Management and made a decision to reduce the forecast from the published OFM medium forecast number provided in 2012 by 2,322 for an unidentified reason.

Should we accept a break from this conversation for a year? Now that Commissioner Hannold’s “eyes have been opened,” should we accept he just close them again to the current 1,000 household deficit identified in their housing analysis? Affordable housing was identified last year as being in a crisis, the county just reviewed a commissioned housing analysis that confirmed it and yet they suggest they take a break?

Adding to the current housing deficit, a potential huge miss on the population growth estimates and our housing crisis just gets worse.

This issue needs to be addressed much sooner than later, so please ask your county commissioners to continue the conversation and find a solution soon.

Leo Mitchell

Coalition for Affordable Housing

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