News

Agencies target the 'working poor'

"Through its affordable housing ordinance, the city of Bainbridge Island is corralling the forces of private enterprise to build lower-cost housing than builders motivated only by profit might provide.But there is a stratum of islanders who won't be helped by that effort.Even if the land were free, the private sector cannot afford to build houses for people below 50 percent of Kitsap County's median income, said Martin Rowe, affordable housing specialist for Bainbridge Island.This is the segment of the population sometimes referred to as the working poor - households making $30,000 per year or less. These tend to be single-parent families and the elderly, Rowe said. They are our parents and our children.For these people, the free market is not the answer. Instead, they look to the efforts of two public agencies.Working on the island is the Bainbridge Island Housing Resources Board, a non-profit corporation that receives and manages government and private funds. The HRB owns Island Home, a 10-unit project adjacent to Helpline House on Knechtel Way that provides interim housing for up to two years. As a condition of residence, at least one adult must participate in the Stepping Stone program of counseling and education on financial and independent-living issues.They are always single-parent families, HRB Director Bill Reddy said of Island Home residents. The causes are usually illness, divorce or domestic violence, and most of the families were homeless for a time before they came to Island Home.All of the Island Home residents have Bainbridge connections, Reddy said.Either they had been living here, or their support structure is here - parents or other family.HRB also owns Village Home on the corner of Ericksen Avenue and Wallace Way. Those are permanent homes above main-floor commercial and office space, the income from which offsets the cost of providing the assisted housing.Rents at those facilities are $500 per month or less, including utilities. They are so low because the HRB is required as a condition of its government grants to serve people of moderate and low incomes as defined by Kitsap County income requirements, which are much lower than the Seattle metro incomes the city uses.It's unrealistic, Reddy said. In most ways, Bainbridge Island is really part of Seattle - at least the costs are. But we have to make our projects stand alone using much lower income numbers.Recently, the HRB acquired the Western View Terrace apartments, and will maintain rents of $300 per month for current tenants.The HRB owns two stand-alone single-family homes - Forest Home next to Helpline House, and the Sadie Woodman home, which sits on a lot at the southwest corner of Wyatt Way and Weaver Road, waiting to be placed on a foundation.The homes were donated to the HRB by developers Jim Laughlin and Rod McKenzie, respectively, and were moved from other sites. The key player in the Sadie Woodman house was (city administrator) Lynn Nordby, Reddy said. He came up with the concept of leasing the lot, which the city owns, to us for 55 years at $10 per year. That's basically free land.In the next three months, HRB hopes to break ground for West Home, a nine-unit apartment complex on Knechtel Way, where the one-bedroom apartments will rent for roughly $500 per month, including utilities.Demand for all the HRB units is strong.There's always a waiting list, Reddy said.In addition to providing housing that it owns, the HRB, in conjunction with the city's Housing Trust Fund, is working on a program to keep partially disabled residents in their own homes.The Independent Living Program will provide money to adapt homes to the disabilities of elderly owners - such things as installing wheelchair-accessible showers and replacing stairs with ramps.This is maximum (funding) leverage, Reddy said, because enabling people to stay in their homes avoids the cost of building new units.HRB also provides money for an emergency rent assistance program, which is administered through Helpline House. While the program is limited to providing a single month's rent, that can still make a big difference in cases like illness, job loss and divorce.In July, we had a woman who was holding off childbirth because she was sleeping in a tent on the island, Reddy said. She had lined up an apartment, but didn't have the up-front money she needed. By providing her with that money, the rent assistance program got her a home.The other public agency active on the island is the Kitsap County Consolidated Housing Authority (KCCHA), which sponsored Strawberry Place, the Weaver Creek self-help housing project.It operates the Rhododendron Apartments on High School Road, a 50-unit rent-subsidized apartment building. That complex was originally built with federal subsidies, but the rental caps that accompanied those subsidies were due to expire. So the KCCHA purchased the complex to maintain its affordable statues.The authority has bought lots on which to build six affordable homes in the Soundview Drive area of Fort Ward Area. Those will be rental units.KCCHA has also filed an application to build a mixture of 16 market-rate and six affordable homes on the old Fort Ward parade grounds, some of which will preserved as a neighborhood park. Those homes will be sold. The Fort Ward project has sparked opposition from several of the nearby residents, who have objected to the presence of affordable housing in their neighborhood.KCCHA and the city are jointly studying the feasibility of a mixed-use structure in downtown Winslow, immediately south of the Farmers' Market plaza. That structure would combine underground parking with ground-level retail and commercial uses and residential units on the upper floors.Bill Isley, a Bainbridge Island architect who works as a consultant to KCCHA, said that as many as half of the 80 units in the proposed Town Center complex would be affordable. A series of focus group meetings with downtown merchants will begin next week, Isley said.While the units would necessarily be small, Isley thinks that is the wave of the future, particularly where affordability is an issue.People have much bigger homes than they really need or want, he said. My sense is, make them small. My daughter just moved into a 280 square-foot condominium in Seattle. She loves it, and she can afford it.The other public agency active on the island is the Kitsap County Consolidated Housing Authority (KCCHA), which sponsored Strawberry Place, the Weaver Creek self-help housing project.It operates the Rhododendron Apartments on High School Road, a 50-unit rent-subsidized apartment building. That complex was originally built with federal subsidies, but the rental caps that accompanied those subsidies were due to expire. So the KCCHA purchased the complex to maintain its affordable statues.The authority has bought lots on which to build six affordable homes in the Soundview Drive area of Fort Ward Area. Those will be rental units.KCCHA has also filed an application to build a mixture of 16 market-rate and six affordable homes on the old Fort Ward parade grounds, some of which will preserved as a neighborhood park. Those homes will be sold. The Fort Ward project has sparked opposition from several of the nearby residents, who have objected to the presence of affordable housing in their neighborhood.KCCHA and the city are jointly studying the feasibility of a mixed-use structure in downtown Winslow, immediately south of the Farmers' Market plaza. That structure would combine underground parking with ground-level retail and commercial uses and residential units on the upper floors.Bill Isley, a Bainbridge Island architect who works as a consultant to KCCHA, said that as many as half of the 80 units in the proposed Town Center complex would be affordable. A series of focus group meetings with downtown merchants will begin next week, Isley said.While the units would necessarily be small, Isley thinks that is the wave of the future, particularly where affordability is an issue.People have much bigger homes than they really need or want, he said. My sense is, make them small. My daughter just moved into a 280 square-foot condominium in Seattle. She loves it, and she can afford it. "

We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus

Read the latest Green Edition

Browse the print edition page by page, including stories and ads.

Oct 17 edition online now. Browse the archives.

Friends to Follow

View All Updates