City seeks $50K for HRB budget

Bainbridge Island’s City Council listened to a round of public comments Wednesday centering on funding affordable housing for vulnerable island residents.

Upon opening the deliberation for the proposed 2012 budget, council member Bill Knobloch made the point that the Housing Resource Board (HRB) does not have any funds planned for the budget. This was followed by a number of residents coming forward for public comment on the issue. The comments were led by Ken Balizer, HRB’s executive director.

“I would like to state what a stellar job HRB has done,” said Maria Cook, resident of a mobile home park that the nonprofit operates. “It is a very difficult and complex job … a lot of sensitivity is required and HRB has managed to come through.”

Earlier this week, Balizer sent a mass email explaining that the city did not have any 2012 funding planned for HRB programs. Currently, the portion of the budget for 2012 that affects HRB programs has yet to be finalized. So far, $30,000 that remains from 2011’s contributions to HRB can be carried over to help fund it in 2012.

HRB is requesting a total of $80,000, leaving a $50,000 gap.

The council responded to the community by unanimously passing a motion to commit to finding sources to fund the remaining $50,000. Members will discuss the issue during next week’s council meeting in an effort to identify a source of funds.

“I’m feeling positive right now,” Balizer said. “But that doesn’t mean we aren’t going to show up and be heard.”

The Housing Resource Board is a local organization that provides affordable housing for island residents in need through multiple programs. It has become particularly useful during the current economic difficulties.

“It’s a huge issue,” Balizer said. “We are getting calls from people all the time that are homeless. We have apartments that we rent, that are very low income. And we are running at 100 percent occupancy.”

There are four programs for which the HRB needs to secure funding:

Independent Living, which helps disabled and elderly people to stay in their own homes through modifications and upgrades that fit special needs;

HomeShare, which helps renters who are not able to afford an apartment find rented rooms with residents on the island;

• Emergency Rental Assistance, which provides one-time help to people facing difficulties meeting their monthly rent; and

• Islander Mobile Home Park, which provides affordable mobile home lots on the island.

“(These programs) help the most needy people in terms of housing on the island,” Balizer said. “We would like all of it to be funded out of the general fund, and the Housing Trust Fund is not a viable place to fund these things.”

With an understanding of the current economic hardships facing Bainbridge Island, and elsewhere, the HRB has made cuts in their 2012 financial request to the city. They faced further cuts in 2011. During Wednesday’s meeting, council member Kim Brackett asked Balizer if $80,000 was enough to fund the HRB’s needs.

“Actually no,” Balizer said. “We are asking for bare bones. I was told that it was very tight this year.”

The city is now faced with finding $50,000 within the 2012 budget in order to meet the HRB’s request.


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