I am writing in response to the editorial expressing ambivalence about Proposition 1, the proposed Yes for Homes REET, because it’s tied to the existing 1% Land Bank REET. It is true that the two are linked by the state legislation which created them; and it is also true that if the Land Bank REET were to fail to be renewed in 2026 the Housing REET would also be invalidated.
That situation can’t be changed except by amending the legislation, as the editorial suggests. However, to do that at this time would put the housing REET on hold for an indefinite period of time, until the legislation could be amended. Moreover, it would jeopardize BOTH REETS should the legislation not be reauthorized. It would essentially throw out the baby with the bath water.
As a public agency, the Land Bank Commission cannot officially advocate for or against a ballot measure. However, I as an individual, along with many of my fellow commissioners, strongly support the creation of a Housing REET.
San Juan is the only county in the state of Washington to have a Land Bank. This is a testament to the far-sighted determination of the people of these islands to preserve and protect for the public the best wildlands that make our environment the special place it is.
The real need for affordable housing, to keep our county accessible to a diversity of folks of all income levels, is a need that still needs to be met.
The Land Bank REET and the Housing REET are not in competition. In a way the two efforts are complementary: by passing Proposition 1 we would be enabling housing to be built in appropriate locations—mostly in higher density development in urban growth areas—while still preserving the best of our natural environment.
To the new home buyer a one-time, 1½ percent tax on the purchase should be considered an investment in his or her community and environment.
I have no reservations whatsoever about the housing REET initiative. I urge county voters to join me in approving Proposition 1, “Yes for Homes.”
Chair, San Juan County Land Bank Commission