Home Fund supports affordable housing in Friday Harbor

Posted November 25, 2022 at 10:44 am by

San Juan County Affordable Housing Coordinator Ryan Page at the HolliWalk construciton site — Contributed photo

The Coun­ty shares news about the impact that its Home Fund grants are hav­ing on San Juan Island.

Take a stroll through Fri­day Harbor’s neigh­bor­hoods and you’ll find the next wave of afford­able hous­ing. On Price St., passers­by will see walls being framed in, hear the hum of com­pres­sors hard at work, and feel the excite­ment in the air. This is the future Hol­li­Walk Neigh­bor­hood – a col­lec­tion of eight per­ma­nent­ly afford­able homes set to be com­plet­ed this spring.

“This is where you can see afford­able hous­ing in action,” said Ryan Page, San Juan County’s Afford­able Hous­ing Coor­di­na­tor. “It’s so excit­ing to see the progress every time you vis­it the site.”

Page man­ages San Juan County’s Home Fund, a Real Estate Excise Tax pro­gram ded­i­cat­ed to devel­op­ing, pro­duc­ing, and pre­serv­ing afford­able hous­ing in San Juan Coun­ty. $1.68 mil­lion from the Home Fund was award­ed to the San Juan Com­mu­ni­ty Home Trust to make the Hol­li­Walk Neigh­bor­hood a reality.

“The Coun­ty REET pro­gram is essen­tial to afford­able hous­ing in the island,” said Jim Goetz, the Home Trust’s Board Pres­i­dent. “The Coun­ty is fund­ing almost half of our Hol­li­Walk project. With­out that, we would be unable to proceed.”

The neigh­bor­hood of eight homes will remain afford­able for future gen­er­a­tions of home­own­ers. For this project, the Coun­ty secured rough­ly $160,000 from a state Con­nect­ing Hous­ing to Infra­struc­ture Pro­gram grant, which helps off­set util­i­ty hookup charges for afford­able hous­ing devel­op­ments. The sav­ings allow the Home Trust to sub­si­dize the cost of con­struc­tion to help make the new homes as afford­able as pos­si­ble for the fam­i­lies pur­chas­ing them.

“The REET is a key mech­a­nism that few oth­er coun­ties have,” said Aman­da Eichel­berg­er, the Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of the San Juan Com­mu­ni­ty Home Trust. “It is a pot of mon­ey that the Home Trust can rely on to plan ahead and get our work done in a rapid­ly chang­ing envi­ron­ment. Because it’s man­aged by the Coun­ty, it’s the eas­i­est for us to use and not be held up in the same way we are by state and fed­er­al money.”

San Juan Coun­ty has part­nered with the Home Trust on two projects that pro­vide four­teen hous­ing units to qual­i­fy­ing islanders. Since 2018, the Coun­ty has award­ed the Home Trust with $1.77 mil­lion from the Home Fund.

“The part­ner­ship we have with the Coun­ty is real­ly crit­i­cal,” said Eichel­berg­er. “They’ve been essen­tial part­ners in cre­at­ing sus­tain­able solu­tions to afford­able hous­ing, rather than one-off band aids. We’re build­ing last­ing com­mu­ni­ty assets.”

Housing the Community

Chin­mayo Rick­etts under­stands first­hand what an asset these homes are to the community.

“As an artist, my mot­to was pub­lic art for the peo­ple by the peo­ple,” Chin­mayo says. “And that’s just what this neigh­bor­hood is – for the peo­ple by the people.”

Chin­mayo lives in the Sun Rise I neigh­bor­hood on Grover Street in Fri­day Har­bor, a col­lec­tion of 14 per­ma­nent­ly afford­able homes built by the San Juan Com­mu­ni­ty Home Trust. Designed to be envi­ron­men­tal­ly friend­ly, these homes have solar hot water heat­ing sys­tems, rain­wa­ter catch­ment for laun­dry, bam­boo floor­ing, and air-to-air heat exchangers.

“My hat is off to the folks at the Home Trust,” she said. “It’s such a gift to live here. And we’ve proved that if we work togeth­er, we can make some­thing so spe­cial and spectacular.”

These hous­es remain afford­able for mod­er­ate income-eli­gi­ble island res­i­dents thanks to large sub­si­dies pro­vid­ed by local dona­tions and gov­ern­ment grants, includ­ing awards from San Juan County’s Home Fund.

“The oth­er crit­i­cal com­po­nent of our part­ner­ship is the County’s will­ing­ness to be part of the plan­ning and build­ing process,” said Eichel­berg­er. “Cre­at­ing lines of open com­mu­ni­ca­tions is some­thing the Coun­ty has done to move the afford­able hous­ing cause for­ward. For exam­ple, the Hous­ing Advi­so­ry Com­mit­tee can help vet projects and advo­cate for the work we’ve been doing – it’s just so important.”

There are more projects on the hori­zon for San Juan Island. The Home Trust owns mul­ti­ple parcels with future devel­op­ment pos­si­bil­i­ties, and the Coun­ty is embark­ing on a process to iden­ti­fy a devel­op­ment part­ner for a piece of land owned by the Coun­ty in the Town of Fri­day Har­bor that will be used for afford­able housing.

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