Housing affordability is a significant problem in Island County and Washington State. The Washington State Affordable Housing Board defines affordability as "when a household pays no more than 30% of its income for all housing costs." A 2015 study commissioned by the board found that thirty six percent (936,260) of Washington's households are cost-burdened and more than 390,000 households (15.2%) are severely cost-burdened. In fact, the proportion of the lowest-earning households (earning less than 30% of the state's median family income) that are severely cost-burdened is greater than those who can reasonably afford their housing. (3)
The same study reported that 8,780 Island County households were making less than the area median income identified as cost-burdened household. Further, Island County falls far behind both state and national averages in supply of affordable housing units for households with less than 50% of median family income.
The 2015 Community Health Assessment Survey in Island County asked respondents about the five leading social and economic issues that affect local population health. Lack of affordable housing ranked highest for low income survey respondents and fifth highest for all respondents. The same concern was expressed by focus group participants who said there were not enough community resources to meet current needs.
The Island County Housing Support Center currently has 287 households waiting for housing assistance to become available. One hundred of those households are living unsheltered, in a vehicle, or other adapted shelter. The 2017 Island County Point-in-Time Count identified a rising number of chronically homeless individuals who have been homeless for more than a year, or who have had multiple periods of homelessness over the past several years
Several local initiatives are currently underway to address the affordable housing shortage. The Housing Workgroup determined they would support these efforts by encouraging stakeholder collaboration and shared resource use.
Specifically, their recommendations included increasing the availability of affordable housing; supporting the new emergency shelter and connecting its users to needed health services; and increasing needed support services for chronically homeless individuals.
Joanne Pelant, Island County Human Services
Celine Servatius, CHAB Member
Laura Luginbill, Island County Public Health
Tim Callison, City of Langley
Lou Cox, Compass Health
Molly Hughes, Town of Coupeville
Karla Jacks, Camano Community Center
Cathy Niiro, United Way
Lynda Richards, Island County Human Services
Vivian Rogers-Decker, SPIN Cafe