A recent survey to all Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce members showed that the No. 1 concern was housing, specifically workforce priced housing between $200,000-$300,000.
During our recent board retreat, it was unanimously decided that we take a stance on the ongoing housing crisis, and that we are 100 percent for smart development.
The Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce strongly urges city and county officials to consider any and all projects that have a potential to help solve the housing crisis. This includes ongoing developments and ones that are in the permitting process, addressing the 41 recommendations from the Housing Task Force and providing an action plan for the current study the county has hired an outside analyst to review.
As a member-driven organization, our mission is to bring commerce to the City of Oak Harbor…we want to keep business on-island. With more and more of our workforce having to live off-island, this is becoming harder and harder to do.
If you’ve gone or left the island during rush hour, you know exactly what I’m talking about. In the mornings there is a line of cars a mile long coming onto the island, and the same happens after working hours with people leaving the island to go home. There is no doubt that the majority of these people are our Navy personnel, as there are no available rentals or affordable homes to speak of.
There are currently 42 homes on the market in the workforce price range of $200,000-$300,000, with 31 of them selling each month. This gives us an absorption rate of 1.3 months —- meaning if no other homes came on the market, we would be out of homes before Thanksgiving. Coupled with the fact that Navy housing has a two-year wait list, and you can come to no other conclusion that we are in a housing crisis.
So, what do we do? Building within the city limits is not realistic, as you cannot build a small number of homes and sell them at an affordable price —- the cost of building in small numbers is just too high.
There is a solution that will help us start to come out of our housing crisis right in front of us…Wright’s Crossing. Right now, they are the only option we have. You’ve heard rumors, read non-facts and possibly formed an opinion on Wright’s Crossing’s master planned development. Let me give you some actual facts: $400 million injected into our local economy.
The plan is for up to 250 homes per year. This makes it a six-year minimum project from the time development starts.
Wright’s Crossing does not want to build the homes (although they were the largest home builder in the U.S. at one point —- they are now developers of land), they want to develop and have local builders actually put hammer to nail
The project will bring roughly 300 jobs per year to the island.
They do have a traffic plan to help with our existing problem and to handle the added traffic that would come from the development. They have hired the foremost expert in traffic studies, who actually lives in Oak Harbor.
The project will also bring tax dollars to our city, impact aid to our schools, help with the cost of the new sewer treatment plant and, let’s not forget the most important thing, people into your businesses. Think about how your business would thrive if you had 500 more customers, and, over time, thousands more customers. As an organization that promotes commerce, I believe that supporting a project that will bring commerce to your business cannot be anything but great.
Consider this: Assuming the average household income is around $50,000, once this project is complete it has the potential to inject $75 million every year into our local economy.
Nothing in my six years as president of the chamber, or as a native-born Whidbey Islander, has shown the potential for this kind of economic stimulus.
• Jason McFadyen is president of the Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce board.