COMMENTARY: Vashon isn’t an island when it comes to real estate

The current overheated market serves so few, and there are so many of us. We truly are all in this together.

This week, we chronicle the frantic pace of the Vashon real estate market — an emotional topic for all of us who care about the economic and cultural diversity of our community and want it to remain affordable for people of different backgrounds and incomes.

For our story, we talked to realtors who share the same deep concerns. Vashon’s real estate community is known for its extremely generous support of many worthy local causes — we cannot doubt that they care as deeply about this community as we do, and like the rest of us, hope the market will correct itself in time.

So here is a reminder as we think about this issue: we are islanders, and islanders should always remember to look at what is happening in the world beyond their shores.

We hope all will have the perspective to realize that what Vashon is experiencing right now, in terms of skyrocketing prices amid excruciatingly short supply, is a huge regional and nationwide problem.

Home prices have shot all over the United States, but particularly in metro areas and more rural areas directly adjacent to them. Rents have also risen in proportion to home prices.

Last week, The New York Times reported on this issue in its “The Upshot” column, laying out the problem in succinct terms:

“Many of the forces driving up prices today aren’t temporary, or easily fixed,” wrote journalist Emily Badger. “This isn’t a story of overstretched buyers and risky mortgages. Rather, it’s a story of way too many people, with plenty of money to spend, chasing too few homes.”

The pandemic, which has slowed building everywhere and also changed the way that people make decisions about relocating, has exacerbated an already existing national crisis of supply and demand — one that won’t be easily fixed.

Here on Vashon, we are fortunate to have Vashon HouseHold, a visionary organization that has long been dedicated to creating affordable housing options for islanders. We must all support its work, now more than ever, before it is too late.

We are also fortunate to be home to activists like Hilary Emmer, whose work with the Interfaith Council to Prevent Homelessness has kept many renters in their homes throughout the pandemic. The charitable efforts of St. John Vianney’s St. Vincent DePaul Society also deserve our regular support.

Looking to the immediate future, we all need to keep our eyes on what happens next at Vashon Community Care — a place with a storied history of providing homes for those in our community who need them most. The facility should and must become that kind of refuge again, and soon.

But beyond getting behind these local efforts, we must all also work to elect leaders — in our county, state and country — who make affordable housing a priority.

The current overheated market serves so few, and there are so many of us. We truly are all in this together.