There’s a lot less room for rational disagreement about whether the city, as in the whole community, should act to correct a worsening shortage of housing affordable to people who work in Galveston.

That, as far as we and many other civic and business leaders are concerned, is a settled question. It’s a problem that, if left unaddressed, will get worse and already threatens to undermine every aspect of the economy and Galveston’s existence as a vibrant, diverse, authentic, living and breathing city.

All the efforts and substantial money invested to promote and develop the economy, culture, arts, entertainment, and all the rest that contribute to livability are likely to falter and fail if Galveston can’t maintain a healthy resident workforce.

The city doesn’t have that now.

Just the highlights of statistics gathered by various groups already working on the problem — the city, Galveston Housing Authority, Vision Galveston and others — show that:

• Almost 700 families have moved off the island since 2010.

• About 65 percent of people who work in Galveston live elsewhere.

• 70 percent of police officers live off the island.

• Almost 70 percent of firefighters.

• 50 percent of other city employees.

Many things might contribute to those statistics, but a lack of good quality affordable housing is among the top reasons.

In 2019, more than 50 percent of renters were cost-burdened by housing — spending more than 30 percent of income on rent and utilities.

That’s partly because the cost to rent has risen sharply over the past 10 or so years. The median rental cost rose almost 32 percent from 2010 to 2019 — to $991 a month from $751, according to Vision Galveston. It’s probably nearer $1,100 to $1,300 now.

It’s probably inevitable that opposition to building workforce housing will rally around the notion that Galveston already has too much subsidized housing. The fact, however, is that hardly any of the island’s stock of subsidized housing is workforce housing. Most of it is public housing meant for people who make very little income.

Left out are skilled workers who are fairly well employed.

For example, phlebotomy technicians, people who work with blood at the University of Texas Medical Branch, make about $33,000 to $35,000 a year, Betty Massey, who serves on the boards of both the housing authority and Vision Galveston, said.

Such a worker can pay about $830 a month in rent without becoming cost-burdened. So, even a person who has invested time and money learning a valuable skill can’t afford to rent on the island.

There’s a tendency in Galveston for people to pine for the good old days when, just for example, downtown buildings were full of shops selling more than novelty T-shirts and sidewalks were full of people all year long.

Building workforce housing might not achieve that, but allowing the situation to worsen — to lose more and more of the most educated, well-employed and engaged residents — will not lead to any kind of improvement.

It will become increasingly difficult, for example, for employers to keep workers to serve all the tourists we spend so much time and effort attracting. Schools will decline as families leave.

Exactly what “doing something” might mean is still a question, but doing nothing already is out of the question.

The Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation helped develop and incubate Vision Galveston. Build Galveston is a Vision Galveston initiative and a nonprofit community development corporation—the island’s singular entity focused on workforce housing.