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Winslow trailer park gets bad news

Financing woes may force property redevelopment in five years, not 10.

Just 10 months ago, residents of Winslow’s Islander Mobile Home Park thought their affordable homes were safe for another decade.

The Kitsap County Consolidated Housing Authority had agreed to buy the park property from owner Pat Alderman; a deal that would have kept the 60-space park as-is for 10 years, after which it would be redeveloped in phases to a mix of affordable and market-rate apartments.

The arrangement, though, was contingent on the KCCHA obtaining financing to purchase the 6.4-acre property at its $5.5 million appraisal price. And as residents learned Thursday, the state Housing Trust Fund will only finance the project if redevelopment begins in five years, not 10.

The state’s reasoning is that not enough residents would be served in an area zoned for the high-density development, said Norm McLoughlin, KCCHA executive director.

“We’re just trying really hard to make this work,” McLoughlin said. “We appreciate the patience of the residents. We want to create an opportunity where they can stay where they are.”

KCCHA development director Julie Graves met with residents Thursday evening, to present options and find out if they still want the housing authority to purchase the park.

One option is for the housing agency to purchase the land through state and federal grants, and begin redevelopment in five years; current residents would get first priority for apartments, which would be priced based on a person’s monthly income.

With redevelopment in three phases, one third of residents would be displaced at that time. Still, KCCHA would at least take care of the disposal cost of homes that needed to be removed, officials said.

But park resident Gregory Massie said most of the homes in the park are more than 10 years old and not worth moving elsewhere. The value is their location in the heart of Winslow, just north of City Hall.

“(Residents) have $30,000 to $40,000 invested in their mobile home. That’s their nest egg,” Massie said. “As a realtor (selling one of the mobile homes), I would have to say there’s only so long you can live here, and that would ruin anyone’s chance of getting equity out.”

Another option would be to finance the purchase privately, but that would nearly double the rent from the current $391 to $700 a month. Massie said that would be a financial challenge to the park’s older, fixed-income residents.

If the housing authority backs out, Alderman likely would sell the park property to private developers, several of whom are said to be waiting in the wings. In that case, residents could be asked to move within 12 months of notice, and developers would not be required to pay owners to dispose of mobile homes.

What happens next, housing authority officials say, is up to residents.

Massie said that by a show of hands, the 20 or so who attended Thursday’s meeting gave the KCCHA their blessing to continue its work. He characterized the meeting’s mood as “resigned.”

But resident Dana Speer thanked the housing authority for “honesty and candor, and going to bat for us. By them doing that, they’re telling us that we count.”

But she said there was a sense that residents are facing the last resort without being offered any other alternatives; she hopes that at a follow-up meeting next week, there will be more dialogue.

“We’re feeling somewhat intimidated that if we don’t work with the KCCHA, we are faced with a developer, which would be worse,” Massie agreed.

“Believe me, I’m not faulting the housing authority, it’s doing its best. (KCCHA) was disappointed that they had to change what they promised.”

Speer says the five-year window renders the 60 tenants’ homes valueless, and that some may not have the means to move their trailers elsewhere.

“Some people are making just $9,000 or $14,000 a year,” she said.

The Silverdale-based housing authority has purchased several other affordable projects when they’ve gone on the market, including the Rhododendron Apartments on High School Road and the 550 Madison building.

“We try to preserve existing affordable housing,” McLoughlin said. “It’s extremely important on the island because it is so difficult to create new affordable housing.”

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