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Archive for March, 2018

As the Chair of the City’s Affordable Housing Task Force, I delivered our Interim Report to the City Council last week (with the assistance of some of the other members of the task force). The following are my introductory remarks, which were followed by a summary of recommendations (linked at the end of the article) and a discussion by Council.

Good evening Mayor, members of the Council, City Manager, City Attorney, City staff and members of the public. My name is Althea Paulson and I’m the Chair of the Affordable Housing Task Force, a one-year citizen task force charged with the responsibility of developing concrete recommendations on affordable housing to the Council for near-term action.

We have been meeting twice monthly as a full group since September. We also divided into subgroups, and studied specific strategies that would respond to the high priority policies and goals from the Housing Element of the Comprehensive Plan. Our recommendations are summarized in our report. We have also made previous recommendations to you, concerning the Suzuki property, inclusionary zoning, and increasing the number of live-aboards in Eagle Harbor.

Before I summarize our recommendations, I’d like to give you some context for this task.

We all know Bainbridge is having an affordable housing crisis, as are most communities in the Puget Sound Region and throughout the country, anywhere where good jobs are plentiful and the quality of life is high. In 2017, according to an annual report by Sotheby Realty,  the island broke three records: 1. highest median price for single family homes , at $840,000; 2. most sales in a single year; and 3. lowest inventory of housing, continuing a five-year trend. “Inventory is still historically low and buyer activity is elevated due to our strong job market,” the report found. “This is continuing to drive prices to record levels.”

In order to qualify for a mortgage at these prices, you need an income that puts you in the top 5% of earners in the country. Median condo sales are over a half million, and rental vacancies continue to be so low as to be almost nonexistent.

This data tells us that Bainbridge is becoming an increasingly exclusive and rarified place to live. We’re older, whiter and richer than surrounding communities. But many of  us value the vibrancy and creativity of a more diverse population –diverse in age, socio- economics, race and ethnicity. As a result, housing affordability is important both to those who live here, and those who cannot. (more…)

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