Cultivating community through affordable housing | Guest Viewpoint

Liz Revord
Posted 9/7/22

During an inspiring evening at the “Under the Tent” event, a city official asked us all to “not let perfect be the enemy of good” when offering solutions to our housing …

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Cultivating community through affordable housing | Guest Viewpoint

Posted

During an inspiring evening at the “Under the Tent” event, a city official asked us all to “not let perfect be the enemy of good” when offering solutions to our housing crisis. I will however, plant a cautionary seed in the fertile ground that came out of the Aug. 18 event.

Accessory Dwelling Units increasing the number of housing units, and upzoning all have their place in response to our housing emergency, but I caution us to consider what happens when we leave those units up to fate under the invisible hand of the free market, or in this analogy — an untended field.

Many on Thursday left empowered and encouraged by the open dialogue, brainstorming, and engagement with our elected officials in the Intergovernmental Collaborative Group. 

However, I worry that despite good intentions, we will end up continuing to build expensive, market-rate housing units rather than the affordable workforce housing we so desperately need here in our beautiful Victorian port-side community.

I invite you to look at the traffic entering the Peninsula via the Hood Canal Bridge on a Saturday and returning to the big city, and beyond, on a Sunday evening. You will see the vehicles, backed up for miles, weekenders dreaming of becoming residents. At what cost? With only so much land to cultivate, we must be careful what we sow.

Our little row of paradise is a fairly small garden. We need to think about what to plant for the next season — gourmet produce for only the well-off or crucial staples that feed the community? If we simply allow market conditions to decide what gets planted, we will end up with “luxury” produce that feeds only those privileged enough to sit at the table.

Analogy aside, I worry that simply more housing won’t necessarily answer the need for more affordable housing. That the desire of some to live here will crowd out the ability of those barely making ends meet serving and providing for the community at large, as already scarce housing becomes rationed by price. This market pressure will continue to wilt and wither much of our workforce’s aspirations to make Jefferson County their home.

A majority of “Under the Tent” attendees said additional “research” was a key factor in making sound decisions — and I couldn’t agree more. This fall and winter the Housing Solutions Network (HSN) will be taking a deeper dive into cities, counties, and municipalities that have tackled affordable housing, through various models and approaches. We will hear best practices and lessons learned from those who have tried and attempted the (im)possible. 

While the format of these conversations is in the works, we hope to invite our community to join us in Zoom learning sessions with affordable housing leaders from other communities, followed by debriefs within our own community about how these tools could be implemented locally. Together we can get our hands dirty, tend to the community we love so, and find solutions that allow us all to grow and flourish right where we are rooted.

Won’t you join us?

To learn more about HSN, please visit housingsolutionsnetwork.org to see what resources our advocates have already created and help shape the future of affordable workforce housing here in Jefferson County.

(Liz Revord is HSN’s newest director, workforce housing advocate, and change-maker. She is fueled by frustration and fear that being involved in this community isn’t enough to earn the privilege of staying. Although the deer have eaten her garden this year, she hopes to learn better models from her neighbors to host a fruitful garden next time. Until then, she will happily support her local CSA.)

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  • Snowball_InHawaii

    The unfortunate truth about adding housing to the city and surrounding areas, is that for every unit you build, you lose a little more of what made Port Townsend a great place to visit or work. The fact is - not everyone who wishes to live here, can do so without losing more of the charm and quaintness and quietness that used to be Port Townsend. Take a look at what Sequim has become, as an example of overpopulating a pristene locale.

    Thursday, September 8 Report this