EDITORIAL | Tackling affordable housing is a team effort

  • Wednesday, October 4, 2017 1:30am
  • Opinion

A new non-profit group has risen to combat the ongoing challenge of affordable housing and it’s set its sights on Langley.

While the Village by the Sea isn’t doing too bad when it comes to subsidized homes, the city remains an expensive place to live. And everyone knows it. That’s one of the reasons Langley leaders are looking at code revisions to ease and facilitate the realization of additional affordable housing. So the efforts of the recently created Tiny Houses in the Name of Christ (THINC), an organization composed of seven local churches, to acquire property for the construction of tiny houses comes just in time and deserves as much public support as it can get.

Currently, about 12 percent of Langley’s housing stock is within the affordable housing bracket. That’s been true for more than 10 years, according to Langley’s planning chief, Brigid Reynolds. That’s thanks to developments like Brookhaven, Glenhaven Condos and Saratoga Terrace. Innovative housing such as Upper Langley has also been useful.

Yet, finding a cheap place to live in Langley remains tough and it’s been that way for years.

Affordable housing is defined as a residence that costs less than 30 percent of a household’s total income. In 2013, Langley’s median income was about $38,500 and the median rent about $936. According to a 2015 Island County Economic Development study, however, only about 50 percent of city residents were actually earning the median income.

Finding a place to rent in Langley for under $1,000 today is like winning the lottery. Reynolds said that’s due to market conditions and the high demand for housing, particularly from off-islanders looking for a new place to call home.

But it’s not just a Langley issue, it’s county-wide. Affordable housing and homelessness are big enough problems that last year Island County opened the Housing Support Center in Coupeville. It’s a one-stop shop for those who are homeless or are at risk of losing their homes.

Similarly, Langley government is looking at loosening its development rules to make it easier to build homes that are truly affordable — not inexpensive beachfront homes, but blue-collar affordable. It’s considering reducing minimum lot sizes and parking requirements, easing accessory dwelling units restrictions, allowing multi-family housing in single-family neighborhoods (three- or four-plexs, not apartment buildings), and of course rules that would pave the way for tiny houses.

Solving the housing crisis on Whidbey Island is going to take a team effort, so it’s encouraging to see governments and private citizens not just recognizing the problem but working side by side to address it. Well done THINC and Langley both.

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