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HRB seeks ‘right homebuyer’ for Ferncliff Village
There are several different “types” of homebuyers who fit into the Ferncliff Village genre, but the one characteristic that appears to be consistent is that the affordable-housing complex fits their current needs and expectations.
Ingrid Del Riesgo, for example, is likely a little different from most of the eventual 24 owners of the single-family residents in the first phase of the Housing Resources Board development. She’s a recent divorcee who has purchased a 1,338-square-foot unit that is in the higher ($220,000) income range for a buyer.
But once Del Riesgo went through the Community Land Trust orientation, she knew she had found “the perfect fit at the right time.”
“At first I wanted a condo close to town where I could walk everywhere,” she said. “But I didn’t want shared walls and condos are even expensive because of the huge monthly fees. I also looked at some small fixer-uppers, but they were a little out of my range, and I really wanted a new house if possible.”
And a three-bedroom one, at that, since she has teenage children who will be sharing the home, too.
“It’s pretty cool and really what I wanted all along,” she said of the two-story home, which she hopes to move into on Feb. 24. “It’s something I can maintain by myself and can afford.”
She also likes the neighborliness that the new village offers.
“I’ve already got to know one set of neighbors and we’ve had a blast getting to know each other,” said Del Riesgo, who will serve her 50 hours of maintenance commitment ($20 per hour for $1,000 that will go off her purchase price) by landscaping her own home.
Her new castle is one of three different models that have just been completed (a fourth will be finished soon) and will be shown Saturday during an open house on the six-acre development, which will feature 24 multifamily units when the second phase is built on the north side of the property. Right now, it appears the second phase will consist of six fourplex rental units, though HRB Executive Director Mark Blatter says the exact makeup is still undecided.
Blatter, who has worked on numerous Seattle-area affordable-housing projects in recent years, has been on the job for about a month after replacing Ken Balizer, who decided he’d return to New Mexico after a couple of years on the island.
Blatter said Wednesday that his expertise is in financing, “which is the key in finding public and private funding sources in a very competitive region. This one (Ferncliff) was put together with Liberty Bay Bank as the lender, but these projects are more like a revolving fund with many other public and private sources being involved,” he said.
He said the key to the Ferncliff Village being financed “is that the land was donated (by islander Lois Curtis), which means we can have the majority of our qualified buyers with incomes of 80 percent or less of the median income in Kitsap County. Of course, those who can afford more will be paying more, up to as much as $50,000.”
(The 80 percent median income is $41,750 for one person up to $69,150 for a family of six.)
Right now, Blatter said, the majority of the buyers (qualified homeowners have been found for the next four houses to be built in coming months) are in the moderate range, but that the goal is to entice more low-income buyers.
“That’s the challenge,” he said, “reaching out and finding folks who are income qualified at 80 percent or less because those people don’t typically think they are eligible. They may not be at first because of a lack of credit or savings or another criteria, but if we can identify those who are interested then we can work with them over a period of months and eventually help them qualify.”
The criteria includes: an income requirement for paying the monthly mortgage; earning no more than 120 percent of the median income; a good credit rating; total debt payments not exceeding 38-40 percent of income; proof of steady employment or income over two years; and net assets under $300,000.
“There truly is an opportunity here for low-income qualifiers to buy their own homes for what it costs to rent on the island,” he said. “People just have to have faith that if they go through our homebuyer education program they will qualify. We will help them.”
He said there has been some competitiveness from bank-owned homes that are foreclosures and are selling at a discount for first-time homeowners. “But people become interested once they see we are selling new homes with great energy conservation at a very good price,” he said.
Bainbridge can be difficult for affordable-housing because of the high-cost of property, which is why land donations are so critical.
“But the other side is that Bainbridge Island is also an understanding and supportive community, and we all feel it will help us get through this,” said Blatter. “We’re doing this for the neighborhood of homeowners we are putting together, but also for the community as a whole.”
Del Riesgo said she has definitely felt the love.
“I lived in a co-op kind of neighborhood before in Marysville (Wash.) and I really enjoyed it,” she said. “I think I’ll find that again here … people pitching in to help each other. Caring for each other. It has a good feeling about it.”
Home sweet homes
The “Welcome Home” Celebration of the first three homes completed at Ferncliff Village will be held at 10 a.m. Friday, Feb. 11. The public is invited to participate, and parking is available across Ferncliff Avenue.
The three different models of the green, affordable and sustainable homes will be available to tour. They range in price from $195,000 to $220,000.
For more information on the Housing Resources Board’s Ferncliff Village, contact Phedra Elliott at 842.1909 7# or visit either www.ferncliffvillage.org or www.housingresourcesboard.org.