Oak Harbor has worked successfully to ensure that we enjoy a high quality of life with great schools, good health care, excellent police and fire departments and access to natural beauty
An area for improvement is affordable housing for many of our residents. Estimates are that as many as one half of all county renters are housing-burdened, spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing.
Affordable workforce housing has been an island-wide concern for at least the past few years, especially as welcomed NASWI headcount growth has outstripped local housing inventory.
I support the proposed affordable housing apartment building on Pioneer Way that the Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI) will build, own and manage. Adding 50 more units of affordable housing for local workers is a welcome part of the solution.
Since 35 of the 50 units in this new apartment will be single bedroom, let’s look at a family of two – the Smith family — where one of the spouses works a 30 hour week as a vet assistant making $1,493 a month and the other spouse works 20 hours a week as a receptionist/clerk at a real estate office making $987 a month. Combined family income is $2,426.
“Affordable” housing (rent plus utilities), particularly in this income range, is defined as not costing more than 30 percent of one’s monthly income. This rule of thumb acknowledges other expenses of taxes, car payment(s), car insurance, gas, health insurance, groceries, cell phones, internet only home service, clothing, etc.
Thirty percent of $2,426 is $728. And if we assume $75 a month for utilities, then this couple needs to find a rental for $653. To put us in a ballpark, today I could find no internet rentals on the Island in the $600’s or $700’s, 3 rentals in the $800’s, 1 in the $900’s and 2 in the $1,000’s – 6 total. Double that to even 12 units and we see the tightness of availability.
The Smith family will qualify for LIHI affordable housing and they will be charged a rental expense that corresponds with 30 percent of their income. As a result they can be more stable community members with more available income to spend locally.
The Smith family could be our parents collecting basic Social Security, they could be a disabled brother or sister, they could be a junior enlisted family, they could be a substitute teacher or a medical assistant or care worker or bank teller. Let’s continue to work together to contribute to the quality and health of our community.