Like so many communities nationwide, astronomical home prices and the lack of rental units are negatively impacting small businesses and the local workforce. The effects are even more severe in our rural, Island community, where less expensive neighboring suburbs don’t exist and multi-family rental units are very few to begin with.
Goosefoot’s Housing Group
Building affordable and low-income housing is difficult and complicated. Different funding mechanisms exist for different income levels served by the housing development to be built. On Whidbey Island, the lack of septic and water infrastructure makes housing projects cost prohibitive outside of the three municipalities of Langley, Coupeville, and Oak Harbor.
In rural communities like ours, myriad types of small-scale solutions are needed. Multiple methods of constructing, acquiring, and inventing ways of housing residents need to be employed, and at a density that conforms to rural land use.
To this end, Goosefoot is contributing staff and seed money towards establishing a new housing organization that will focus on traditional and innovative ways of delivering affordable housing throughout Island County. Our vision is a group that can advocate legislatively, partner with developers on new construction projects, and serve as a resource for other Island County housing projects that need assistance in the planning stages.
A steering committee of experienced housing, finance and development professionals has established the new organization’s mission and strategic priorities. Its purpose is to create housing affordable to people who live and work in Island County, with an initial focus on workforce rental housing. Through partnerships and coalitions, the organization will work toward the development and long term management of housing, and will broaden the community’s understanding of the needs and opportunities for this work.
The organization will establish itself under Goosefoot’s fiscal sponsorship, and we will maintain some financial and other support on an ongoing basis, per our status as a Type 1 Supporting Organization. Fiscal sponsorship is a way for that new project or organization to start its charitable work immediately, while Goosefoot takes care of the administrative and compliance areas. This allows Goosefoot’s Housing Group (as it’s calling itself in this phase) to develop internal leadership expertise that is focused exclusively on the creation and prservation of affordable housing across Island County.
Updates will be posted to this page as the organization develops. In the meantime, here’s how you can help:
- We’d love to hear from you if you’ve worked with a group like this before or if you have a specific set of skills applicable to the development of affordable housing.
- Our community also needs “ambassadors,” who can assist and champion the need for affordable housing in our community whenever possible.
- If you have an accessory dwelling, 2nd home, or short-term rental, considering offering it as long-term housing at a rate affordable for local workers, and encourage others to do the same.
- Want to know what qualifies as “affordable” in our community? Go here.
Contact us at [email protected] org or 360-321-4145
Property Purchase in the City of Langley
In March of 2022, Goosefoot purchased two adjoining lots in the City of Langley, which we immediately put into trust to use for the development of multi-family rental housing.
The owners, JR and Cally Fulton, had approached us to help them realize their long-held dream of placing affordable housing on their property, and offered very favorable terms for Goosefoot to “land-bank” the property for development in the near future. With the assistance of anonymous donors, half of the purchase price was raised and Goosefoot has until March 2023 to raise the remaining amount due.
Referred to as the “2nd and DeBruyn” property, Goosefoot’s housing group has undertaken initial feasibility and will be using this project to create model development processes for small scale rental projects. This will include resources for construction and long-term rental management, as well as developing innovative financing mechanisms. The ultimate goal is to benefit the local affordable housing sector as a whole in Island County.
As a landlord to over 24 non-profits and small businesses in the Bayview area, Goosefoot started seeing the growing housing crisis and its economic impact well before the pandemic. Bayview is one of only three county-designated RAIDS (Rural Area of Intense Development) where multi-family developments can be built, other than within our three municipalities.
In 2021, Goosefoot organized a group of other landowners in Bayview to work collaboratively on identifying opportunities to develop affordable housing in the area. Goosefoot hired and paid for a consulting consortium (Schemata Workshop, Spectrum Development Solutions, and MIG Civil Engineering) to determine the economic, environmental, and infrastructure feasibility of such a project. The process included an infrastructure and site review, a housing needs survey, and a public meeting.
The study highlighted the challenges for building affordably: land to building ratio for standard septic leachfields; the high cost of more innovative Large On-Site Systems that have lower land ratios; and the fact that federal subsidy programs are targeted toward designated urban areas, very large projects, and/or “economically distressed zones.”
The take-aways were that parternships are ideal, site selection is a key component to affordability, and financing pipelines need to be developed on the public and private levels to enable non-urban developments to make fiscal sense. Goosefoot continues to work toward these goals being realized in the Bayview RAID, and is looking forward to the Housing Group taking the lead in advocating for these issues to be considered at the State and County levels.
Housing at Bayview Corner
In late 2007, Goosefoot partnered with the Island County Housing Authority in an attempt to build affordable housing on property we owned in Bayview Corner. Because the property is zoned rural, only “essential public facilities” are allowed to be built according to zoning code.
In December 2007, Goosefoot submitted an application to the Island County Planning Department for a Zoning Code Interpretation requesting that affordable housing be considered an “essential public facility.” This would have allowed the use of rural zoned property for the development of multi-family housing, in this case owned and operated by the Housing Authority.
In March 2008, the county ruled that affordable housing did not meet the definition of an “essential public facility” and denied Goosefoot’s request.
House Moving Program
Since our founding in 1999, Goosefoot has played a role in helping to provide affordable housing on South Whidbey Island.
Between 2000 and 2008, our “house-cycling moving program” matched 13 land owners with homes destined for demolition due to new construction projects. Couples began their lives together in these homes, raising families without the pressures of finding a comfortable place to live.