Saturday, July 11, 2009

Looking Ahead

San Juan County recently produced a Housing Needs Assessment, which looks at population demographics up to 2025. Bottom line: the population of the county will get significantly older. This older population will not be working (over half of the population will be over 55 in 2025); many of these people may well need care. As a consequence of this non-working population, the County planners expect that by 2025 (16 years from now), there will need to be over 3000 workers commuting daily to meet the service needs of the islands. Here are a few of the key findings:
* By 2025, the minimum of an additional 2,067 housing units will need to be constructed to house the projected population increase. Of these units, approximately 1,095 must be affordable to households earning $100,000 or less (1 1⁄2 x median household income).
* By 2025, the projected population will not contain enough working age people to fill the expected jobs in the county. In order to reverse this trend, a further 1,594 housing units will need to be built.
* To house the entire projected workforce in 2025, 2,689 affordable housing units will be need to be built.
* Median income earners in the county cannot afford to buy a house in the county.
* In order to purchase a median priced house in the county, a family would need to be earning almost 2 1⁄2 x the median family income, approximately $150,000, and possess a further $100,000 for a down payment.
* Wages in San Juan County are approximately 30% lower than they are on the mainland.
* Housing in San Juan County is the least affordable in the state.

San Juan County, like most counties in the country, is running deep in the red. There is simply no money to create a system that can supply this quantity of housing, using the current ideas about the role of government, tax structures, and employment trends. Few citizens in the county know about this forecast (who reads "Housing Needs Assessments"??) Few will want over 3000 worker bee commuters coming daily. At wage rates paid in the county, very few of these folks will be driving their cars (the cost of bringing a car on the ferry today already prohibits uncompensated daily commuting). San Juan County will migrate from the romantic image of a self-sustaining rural community (since 1970 this image has drifted from reality to nostalgic fantasy) to a tourist, second home, and geriatric retirement community entirely dependent on the mainland for life-support. The county will essentially be a large ICU.