Event cancelation indicative of underlying pressures

Due to shortage of labor, the Whidbey Island Harvest Festival in Langley has been canceled.

Due to an ongoing shortage of labor on the South End, the Whidbey Island Harvest Festival in Langley has been canceled.

Inge Morascini, the executive director for the Langley Chamber of Commerce, stated that the lack of affordable housing continues to be a large factor in the worker shortage.

Last month, Clinton business Whidbey Island Bagel Factory announced that it was closing its retail location because employees are hard to come by. Some former workers at the bagel shop found housing more easily on the mainland and decided they didn’t want to commute across the water, for instance.

According to Redfin, the average home price in Langley was $968,000 last month, up 32% from last year.

“Our community is out of balance in terms of income versus cost of housing. Most businesses have increased their wages substantially during recovery, but the major industries on South Whidbey cannot provide the level of wages to afford housing at the current prices,” Morascini said in an email.

She added that the current need for affordable housing on South Whidbey is estimated at 200 to 300 homes. While there are several small housing projects in the works for Langley, she believes they won’t make a dent in the need or help in the short term.

Some groups, however, are looking at short-term solutions such as “in-home suites,” which advocate for making space within current homes for roommates by rethinking floor plans and doing minor renovations.

“Innovative, quick solutions may provide some relief but, bottom line, this is an enormous problem requiring an ‘all hands on deck’ approach,” she said. “The solutions will have to involve county and city government, local businesses and local citizens.”