A Safe and Cozy Home: Sarah Brown on Addressing the Housing Crisis

Sarah Brown's farmhouse in the snow

We know a home is much more than four walls. A home is stories, feelings, a sensation. As I write this, I’m looking through the icicles hanging from the roof of my old farmhouse out at snow-covered fields. My windows are single-paned with a storm window, but my office is in the coldest north-facing corner of the house and icicles are part of every winter.

Even with these ever-present reminders of cold and frost and the challenges of keeping a farmhouse comfortable in this climate, my home feels warm and cozy inside. I keep memories tucked in odd places: the counter corner that gave one of my kids a black eye as a toddler; the closet downstairs that made a great hiding spot for a memorable game of hide-and-seek; the funny texture on one wall that covers up mistakes of our first year in this house…

At the same time, I know I have neighbors struggling to pay for a home, or even to find a place to live. At this time, a time filled with the insecurities of COVID and climate change, a home should be a source of stability and comfort. Instead, it’s just more evidence of blatant inequity and challenges to come.

The Methow’s housing crisis is real. The ramifications of a small valley being unable to house our community has had, and will have, long-term impacts on the community’s economy and culture.

Thanks to the efforts of many, we are making strides toward diminishing the housing crisis. TwispWorks’ Methow Investment Network is building momentum and successes as we connect funders with investment opportunities that increase available housing in the valley. The Methow Housing Trust is breaking ground in many ways to provide housing. Room One is supporting neighbors with the greatest need and advocating for everyone’s basic right to a safe place to live. More leadership is evident at the Methow Conservancy, the Methow Valley Citizens Council, our school district, and many other local organizations and town governments. There are collaborative efforts happening across the nonprofit, private, and public sectors to address housing insecurity, inequities, emergencies, and the unique challenges of building and supply chain issues we face in a remote mountain valley.

I am thrilled that we are tackling this problem immediately and providing solutions as quickly as possible. As a leader in these discussions, I am also acutely aware that solving the immediate problem isn’t necessarily going to keep us out of crisis in the future.

In addition to immediate solutions, the Methow Valley needs to find the key levers that will help us address the upstream issues that are causing this housing crisis. We can only truly “solve” the housing crisis when we address not just the symptoms, but also their root causes.

Finding and addressing these causes adds complexity to the problem and will require more time and energy of us, but I’m confident that we can succeed.

My confidence is buoyed in knowing that housing is a systemic issue being tackled across the country. We can build knowledge, experience, and skill through collaboration and communication.

And, I am comforted in knowing that by addressing systemic causes of the housing crisis we will pave the way to address other systemic issues—issues like climate change, economic inequity, and mental and physical health. We will build strength in solving systemic issues as we address each one, and we will often be able to tackle multiple issues at once to dramatically increase our impact.

These two pandemic years have highlighted our country’s patterns of inequity and inequality. The systems that create these patterns are also more evident.

Here in the Methow, we are taking good active steps to improve our community. What remains to be seen is whether we will take the necessary steps to address the root causes of the issues as well as the symptoms.

So, please, I invite you to my house, and my office at TwispWorks, tell me about your memories and your hopes—the kinds of treasures we have each tucked in the corners and on the hilltops of this valley, and I will help you weave a web of solutions so we can ensure our community IS a safe and cozy home for all of us.

– Sarah Brown, Interim Executive Director