"Housing authority buys 550 MadisonRents will be subsidized for 13 units, and improvements to the building are promised."

"The man with the full white beard and head of hair not only looked like Santa Claus - he brought a full load of Christmas cheer to Madison Avenue Tuesday morning.Roger Waid, deputy director of the Kitsap County Consolidated Housing Authority, told tenants at the 550 Madison apartment complex that his agency, not a private investor, has purchased their apartment building.Does this mean we don't have to leave? asked tenant Kathy Brown. That was exactly what the news meant. Monday, the housing authority learned that its bid for the 13-unit complex had been accepted. After a staff briefing, Waid visited the building to share the purchase with tenants Tuesday morning.Waid and Director Norm McLaughlin said the authority will keep the apartments affordable for the modest-income tenants, who had feared rent increases so large that they would have to leave complex, and possibly the island.I've been looking for a new place to live for the last three weeks, Brown said. This is wonderful. I'm so relieved.Gabriele Barrett hadn't been packing to leave because she hadn't given up.I've personally been waiting and praying, she said. It's cold outside, but my heart is warm.For years, the complex had been kept affordable by the generosity of building owner Vicki Holmstrom of Kingston. It was Holmstrom's Christian ministry, according to former tenant Jeff Hyskell.But the arrangement fell into uncertainty in October when Holmstrom - who said she was getting too old to do the work required of apartment ownership - showed up with a potential buyer.Hyskell said the prospective buyer told them that you will not be living in this building at these rents very much longer.The tenants knew that a rent increase was inevitable, especially because the building needs some repairs. But most said they couldn't afford large increases, and because there are no low-cost alternatives on Bainbridge, would likely have to leave the island.The KCCHA purchase changes that.Nobody's going to have to move if they don't want to, Waid said.Waid said tenants will soon receive income questionnaires, and their rents will be adjusted within government guidelines for affordability, meaning that no more than 30 percent of income goes to rent.KCCHA will also repair the building, Waid said.Most all of the windows need replacing, and so do some of the floors, he told renters Tuesday. We've done the inspections. We'll catch up on the deferred maintenance for a couple of years, then go on a regular schedule.The housing authority was brought into the picture by Mayor Dwight Sutton. Waid said the mayor read an October news story in the Review about the possible sale, than called KCCHA to see if it was willing and able to step in.The authority made an offer to Holmstrom, but learned that it was in the backup position behind a private party also trying to buy the building.But for reasons that were unclear Tuesday, the first transaction failed.We got a call Monday morning telling us that the deadline had passed on the other offer, and that the sale hadn't been completed, Waid said. That meant we were in first position. We made a decision immediately to go ahead with the deal.The housing authority paid $825,000 for the property, with financing coming from bond sales to private investors. Rent subsidies will be covered by a variety of sources, including federal and state programs and the housing authority's own revenues.The agency also owns and manages the Rhododendron Apartments on Bainbridge Island. The deal came through at the right time of year for the tenants.There couldn't be a better Christmas present, said Gloria Gaetz. I'm just so happy that it came together the way it did. We need to thank the whole community for their support. "

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