More options, less time for park

Islander Mobile Home residents look for help, money.

Winslow’s Islander Mobile Home Park had few options. Now there are more options, but little time.

Faced with losing their homes in five years, residents of the 60-space park north of City Hall are considering proposals by two private developers and anoather by the Kitsap County Consolidated Housing Authority for purchase and eventual redevelopment of the property. But they still must decide their own fate by May 1, when the KCCHA will ask residents if that agency should continue with the purchase or pull out.

“One of the hard things is we’re under a tight deadline, and we won’t know everything before we have to decide,” said Barbara Chrisman, a park resident.

After longtime property owner Pat Alderman announced her intention to sell the six-acre property last spring, KCCHA signed a $5.5 million purchase agreement by which park residents could stay in place for 10 years before being displaced for the development of new affordable housing units.

That plan soured last month, when the state Housing Trust Fund, which would finance the purchase, required KCCHA to start redevelopment in five years.

Residents – who have equity in their individual trailers, but not the park property – say the five-year window would make their homes worthless.

Hopes for tenant ownership of the property were rekindled when resident Greg Massie and others met with California-based PMC Financial Services.

Massie said a PMC representative presented a proposal to help residents form a nonprofit organnization, so that those who wanted to purchase their lot could do so, putting down $15,000, and others could put $750 and finance the rest of the cost at a higher rate. For those who could not afford to buy, the corporation would own those shares and rents would increase to about $700 per space.

A follow-up survey of residents showed that over half were interested in purchasing.

“There was more support to buy shares than I had thought,” Massie said. “It was the catalyst for people getting into the state of mind of being able to purchase shares (in the park property).”

Chrisman said the home ownership was alluring, but as the load of unpurchased shares would be spread among those able to purchase, it seemed unmanageable to her, but the option is still on the table.

Meanwhile, the county housing authority has turned to the city to back its purchase of the property.

Norm McLoughlin, KCCHA executive director, met with the finance committee of the Bainbridge Island City Council, asking that the city guarantee the purchase.

City backing would qualify the housing authority for a lower interest rate at financing, and could put off redevelopment for 10 years, although the agency wouldn’t promise anything past five years, a KCCHA spokesperson said.

Finance committee members recommended the city’s guarantee, and the full council could take up the issue on April 28.

The question of whether residents would receive any equity from their homes when they are displaced by redevelopment is still to be resolved.

“I don’t know that it can be done, and I can’t promise,” McLoughlin said. “But we’ll look at it and continue to look at it.”

Of the KCCHA’s latest proposal, “It didn’t really sweeten the pot at all. There is still no guarantee (of 10 years), and still no equity (payment),” Massie said. “What we really want is ownership.”

Another plan

Also meeting with park residents recently were island developer Kelly Samson and Winslow architect Bill Isley – who lives in the park himself – to discuss a private redevelopment plan involving ownership should the KCCHA proposal fall through.

Under that plan, Samson would purchase the park and residents could buy their own lot with a $15,000 down payment. For those unwilling or unable to buy a share, but wanting to sell their trailer, Samson would have the first option to buy at the current appraisal price. The purchase price would depreciate 10 percent every year, to zero in 10 years.

Those who stay would pay a rental fee just $75 more than the current fee, plus increases in utility costs.

Samson said he is not trying to trump the housing authority’s efforts, but said residents would have up to 10 years to relocate under his proposal.

“I have no desire to buy this place and doze it in next year,” Samson said. “Categorically, that’s not the plan.”

Samson’s offer received a welcoming response.

“In my eyes, he’s given people a lot more choice than other proposals,” Massie said. “He also added legitimacy to the proposal because he is a known quantity to Mrs. Alderman.”

Still, residents said there are simply elements – such as how many people would buy in – that can’t be determined before the community has to decide whether to support the KCCHA plan or back another proposal.

“Lots of people hope to stay,” Massie said. “I think we’ve got enough momentum if Pat (Alderman) is willing. I think she’d like it to remain a mobile home park.”

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