A 2001 Starter Home


Hank and I bought our starter home in 2001. It will likely be our finisher home as well. We were able to purchase it with a monthly mortgage of $1,000 with a down payment of $60,000. It was a stretch for us at the time, as I was working as the school office manager, earning $19,000 annually. Hank was caretaking, but we made it work.

In talking to folks looking for homes today, that ship has sailed. The New York Times recently ran an interesting article about the demise of the starter home. The lack of affordable housing is being felt on Orcas as it is around the country. Locally, a $600,000 home available for sale is likely an older doublewide. Add to that, a required 20% cash down payment and rising interest rates, home ownership is out of reach for most of our workforce. Not a great place to start for anyone.

Folks around the country are grasping for solutions. Orcas has been so fortunate to have OPAL Community Land Trust working on the issue for so long and so successfully. There are over 200 OPAL homes for ownership or rental on the island, housing close to 8% of the island’s year-round population. Unfortunately, the issue just continues to broaden as housing costs rise.  OICF is working with OPAL CLT and the Orcas Community Resource Center to see if we can expand the housing options for a broader segment of our community. Thanks to a Rural Technical Assistance Grant from the State, we have a fantastic team of advisors working with us. They have all been involved in successful projects throughout Washington and are skillfully guiding us through the process. We are in early stages, but hopefully on the right path. Will keep you posted as we progress.

We are well aware that one cluster of houses will not solve the issue for all. OICF will be considering a plan to launch a Housing Task Force in the new year to dive deep into the issue and look at multiple solutions. Membership in the task force would represent a broad range of community members. In order for solutions to work for the community, the community must be involved in creating those solutions.

I will be volunteering at the Orcas Island Film Fest this weekend. They have quite a great line up and there are still some tickets available. The schedule can be seen here.

Also, tomorrow caps off Homecoming Week at OIHS. There will be a parade through Eastsound around 3:30 followed by a bonfire and chili feed on the green. Always a way to stir up that Viking spirit!

Have a great weekend—