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An apartment, an opportunity, and a deadline?

(Above) JoAnn Millican and Pat Loken have lived at the Quay Apartments for a combined 48 years. The complex (below) has a very diverse population ranging from retired residents to families with kids. - Brad Camp/Staff Photos
(Above) JoAnn Millican and Pat Loken have lived at the Quay Apartments for a combined 48 years. The complex (below) has a very diverse population ranging from retired residents to families with kids.
— image credit: Brad Camp/Staff Photos

Residents of Quay Bainbridge hope the city can step up, save their homes.

The clock is ticking, and Madeline Acevedo-Monell has to go.

Today, a doctor’s appointment across the water is calling her. Most other days it’s class at South Seattle Community College that sends her packing for the ferry.

“The commute makes for a long day,” she said. “But it saves me $500 a month.”

Which is the primary reason why Acevedo-Monell, instead of living closer to school, lives by herself in a one bedroom unit at the Quay Bainbridge Apartments, a 71-unit complex located in nine buildings near Waterfront Park.

There, she pays $995 per month for a two-bedroom townhome, $500 less than her former, smaller apartment in Seattle.

Savings like that have been a big boon to her hopes of one day attending law school, and are a major reason why various local housing agencies have long had their eye on the property.

But judging by a recent $12.5 million offer by a developer to buy the complex, affordable housing advocates aren’t the only ones eying the Quay.

Bainbridge Housing Resources Board Director Carl Florea said that if the Quay is sold to the current bidder, it will almost certainly be turned into market rate housing that most residents living there now couldn’t afford.

Knowing that, he and other housing agency representatives last month approached the owners of the Quay – described by Florea as a large, diverse group of families – about the possibility of matching the offer.

At the meeting, housing agency representatives pleaded their case for preservation, though no formal offer was made to match the current deal.

The ownership group couldn’t be reached by the Review for comment for this story.

No firm plan is in place, but Florea’s hope, like that of Quay residents, is that the complex can be preserved as affordable rental housing. Only about 20 percent of islanders rent, according to statistics compiled by local housing agencies.

Still, rental units are scarce, said Sarah Lee of the Kitsap County Consolidated Housing Authority. Although many are less expensive than Seattle, they aren’t cheap by county standards.

The average low income renter in Washington state – defined by the National Low Income Housing Coalition as someone who makes roughly $12.50 per hour – can afford to spend $775 per month on rent.

This week, the cheapest one-bedroom apartment in the Review classifieds was listed for $865 per month, including utilities.

“This is rapidly becoming a housing crisis,” Lee said. “That’s why we’re trying so desperately hard to do something (buy the Quay) that really doesn’t make the best financial sense, but is the right thing to do.”

Some recent deals have preserved rental housing on the island. Aided by money from the city, KCCHA last year helped purchase the Finch Place Apartments, home to about 30 senior residents; another 48 rental units were saved last year when the HRB bought Island Terrace Apartments.

Saving existing rentals is always easier than creating new ones, Florea said, which is why preserving the Quay is crucial.

“If we lost the Quay, basically it would be like voting 71 households off the island,” he said. “There isn’t a place to absorb them within the current structure. If they go, any future affordable housing deals we do would just be trying to catch up to where we are now.”

Happy homes

Many at the Quay are glad to be where they are now, according to a recent survey conducted by the Community Housing Coalition. Among other things, the survey found that the average tenant at the Quay stays for more than eight years.

Acevedo-Monell moved in last spring, and is still settling in.

Her neighbors JoAnn Millican and Pat Loken have lived at the Quay a combined 48 years.

“I love living where I am,” said Millican, a retired teacher and fourth-generation lifetime resident of the island. Her top-floor, one bedroom unit goes for $800 per month.

Loken has similar digs, and similar sentiments.

“It’s such a healthful place,” she said. “Everything you need is close at hand – a doctor, a dentist, a senior center, shopping.

“I just love it – I want to stay here until I’m carried out.”

The three women agreed with the results of the resident survey, saying they have a diverse group of neighbors. There are a number of single women, young families and elderly residents who live there, they said.

Susan James is among the single women at the Quay. She holds a master’s degree and works as a counselor at Poulsbo Elementary School, but has bounced around in her search for housing that’s both affordable and comfortable.

“I’d always wanted to live in Winslow,” she said, citing her involvement in the Bainbridge Chorale and her many island friends. “But I couldn’t afford it.”

Like Acevedo-Monell, James falls into the in-between category; she makes too much to qualify for assistance, and not enough to buy a home or condo on the island. But in February she found the Quay.

“It’s the first place I’ve lived in that’s actually quiet,” she said. “I thought, ‘I’m finally there.’ And now this.”

CHC Director Kat Gjovik said that knowing who lives at the Quay is important because the demographics there in part determine what kind of funding might be available to help with any potential purchase.

“It’s not scientific,” Gjovik said. “It just helps us get a sense of who would be affected if the property were sold.”

There’s no fixed deadline in place, but Florea said a deal needs to happen quickly, perhaps in the next week or two.

Most vital to any deal would be the acquisition of about $6 million in “bridge funding” that could be used to secure the purchase immediately while housing agencies pursue a long-term funding package.

It’s a tough proposition, Florea said, but he and others are hopeful someone will step up to help.

Stepping up is a familiar motion to 87-year-old Quay resident Eddie Rollins, a customer service representative at American Marine Bank and retired superintendent of the Winslow Post Office. He lives on the third floor, and there is no elevator.

“When I’m carrying a bag of groceries, I can feel all 27 steps,” he joked.

Since he moved in 15 years ago his rent has climbed as well, from $465 per month for a one bedroom to $725 per month. Both inclines are worth the price, he said, for the convenience of living in Winslow.

Acevedo-Monell, as a ground floor resident, doesn’t have to contend with steps; she’s just worried about the clock, and whether it might one day toll the end of her time at the Quay.

“I hope I can stay,” she said. “When I heard this place was for sale, I was surprised and now I’m worried – there is no affordable housing here for someone like me.”

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