An advocate for common ground —

An advocate for common ground

By Dave Gallgher; Jan. 27, 2007 © The Bellingham Herald

Realtors’ incoming leader has passion for parks, affordable housing

January 27, 2007

Jon Soine makes a living selling homes, but his passion is in open spaces.

Soine, a residential and commercial real estate agent for Windermere Real Estate, will become president of the Whatcom County Association of Realtors on Wednesday. The group has more than 800 members, up from about 230 when he joined in 1979.

While selling homes has provided his livelihood, it’s also been a way to create and preserve parks. He’s a member of the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition and an avid fan of fishing and RVing — he’s been to nearly every park in Western and Central Washington.

This year, the coalition’s goal is to get $100 million in state funding to create and maintain parks and preserve wildlife habitat. Additional funds also are being raised through private organizations.
Soine sees joining his profession and passion for outdoor recreation as a challenge. He wants to preserve wildlife habitat, but also wants to make sure there are enough homes available so that people can afford to buy them.

“I’m a big believer in maintaining a balance,” Soine said. “People live here because there are so many things to enjoy in the natural wildlife. But it would be quite unfair to say no one else can move here and buy a home and enjoy it. We can preserve the great areas we have while at the same time build homes for people to live in.”

Soine believes 2007 will be an interesting one for him as president of the Realtors association. Along with his activity in park preservation, he is also on the county Affordable Housing Task Force, working with local officials to give people more choices in homes at different price levels.

Peter Roberts, who served as president of the association last year, said his work in trying to provide open spaces and selling homes will serve Soine well as he navigates the politics of growth.
“His role will be to find common ground on these divisive growth issues, and I believe that’s what he wants to do,” Roberts said. “I’ve known Jon for a long time, and he understands what’s at stake. If we just cover Whatcom County with houses, no one will want to move here. If we completely stop building, no one will be able to afford to live here. We need to preserve what’s special but also create a habitat for people to live here.”

Soine has seen what happens when things get out of balance, particularly when it comes to monetary policy. When he first started working in real estate, people didn’t go to the bank to get financing, because interest rates were approaching 20 percent.

“It was a crazy time in real estate where people would rather trade property than deal with those high interest rates,” Soine said. “If I had a client who wanted to buy a farm in Othello, I had to go to that community and try to find someone who wanted to move to Bellingham so they could swap properties. It was certainly a time for creative financing, but not something we should ever go through again.”
While the early 1980s was a difficult time to be a real estate agent, he views his upcoming year as equally challenging.

“Trying to create more choices when it comes to affordable housing while preserving special open spaces is something every community wrestles with,” Soine said. “Fortunately there seems to be a lot of work being done here to come up with solutions.”

WHATCOM COUNTY ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS The organization was founded in 1956 and includes more than 800 Realtors.

JON SOINE Age: 71 Background: A retired Navy captain, Soine became coowner with his father of a shoe store, Soine Shoes, which was in business from 1930 to 1980. (His family also operated Redwing shoe store from 1980 to 1984). In 1979 he became a Realtor. Since 1988 he has served on a variety of state level committees, including the Government Affairs Executive Council. He was also a member of the Whatcom County Parks Board in the mid-1980s. Something you might not know about Soine: He was the main sponsor of the Ronald Reagan radio talk show before Reagan started his political career. On his bookshelf: “My American Journey,” by Colin Powell and Joseph Persico. Soine also listened to the eight-hour version on tape. “Just a fascinating guy,” Soine said. Outlook on 2007 real estate: “We’re re-entering what I consider a more normal real estate year. Already there are more people out looking for homes, but there is a lot of supply out there, so they have plenty to choose from. We’re not seeing the bidding wars that have taken place in the past few years,” Soine said.

Reach Dave Gallagher at 715-2269 or dave.gallagher@bellinghamherald.com.

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