Olson: Businesses hurt by affordable housing shortage

Many local businesses are struggling to find enough staff to keep their doors open and their shelves full. We have a shortage of affordable housing all year round, and it’s especially scarce during the summer high season when every available house, room and outbuilding is being utilized for vacation rentals.

“We’ve come close to closing our doors due to the employee shortage on Orcas Island,” said Lisa Rios of Mijitas restaurant. “Three of the last six seasons, we haven’t had enough staff to open our outdoor kitchen for lunch and haven’t been able to stay open seven days a week. It’s vital that our restaurant be fully open during the summers so we can get through our winters.”

This is a quality of life issue in the San Juan Islands for year-round residents and for tourism, which is at the core of our economic base.

I believe that YES FOR HOMES will provide an elegant solution, in the form of a referendum on the ballot in November. The Home Fund will be available to organizations and builders who have viable proposals for building lower- and middle-income housing. The money for the fund will come from a one-time excise tax, applied exclusively to the purchase and sale of property. This is not a property tax. It is a fee that amounts to one half of one percent of the purchase price to be paid by the buyer.

For a $350,000 home, for example, it would increase the buyer’s mortgage payment by about $8 per month if the fee were added to the mortgage. Vote YES FOR HOMES to support the people and businesses at the heart of our island communities and the economic health and vitality of the place we call home.

Suzanne Olson

Eastsound

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