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Authority drops park purchase

Tenants now will try to buy the property, with a developer’s help.

The Kitsap County Consoli­dated Housing Authority on Friday yielded its option to purchase the Islander Mobile Home Park, at the request of the city.

The housing authority sent a letter of rescission to the attorney of the park’s owner, Pat Alderman, withdrawing from the purchase and sales agreement signed May 2003, KCCHA deputy executive director Roger Waid said.

The move, backed by the tenants of the 60-space mobile home park north of City Hall, clears the way for tenants and local developer Kelly Samson to pursue their own plans for the property.

“KCCHA got involved because the residents of the mobile home park and the city came to us and asked us to help them,” Waid said. “We did our best while remaining true to our mission, which is to build and preserve affordable housing and to protect the most vulnerable and low-income people in our community.”

Nearly 15 months ago, the city and mobile home park residents asked KCCHA to step in and purchase the park, when Alderman decided to put it up for sale.

But this past March, KCCHA said it would have to begin redevelopment of the park – including 200 apartment units, about half of them “affordable” – in five years, not 10 years as hoped for. Residents feared that they would lose the equity in their mobile homes.

Since then, a tenants asociation has come up with an alternate plan to form a nonprofit cooperative to purchase the park in conjunction with Samson.

Last Thursday, a meeting between tenants, city officials and KCCHA apparently convinced the administration that the tenants’ plan would protect the lowest-income park residents and provide continued affordable housing in future years.

As a result, the city wrote a letter Friday to the KCCHA thanking them for their participation and asking them to waive their first position to purchase the 6.4-acre property.

Mayor Darlene Kordonowy expressed satisfaction with the results of the meeting.

“The outcome has real possibilities,” she said.

Park residents also expressed satisfaction.

“We have been put off so many times from a decision,” said Jackie Terry, a park resident.

“I feel stunned that it seemed to all come together.”

Kordonowy cautioned that moving forward with the association’s proposal is still dependent on Alderman agreeing to the city and tenants’ plans. The city and tenants association also have plenty of work ahead.

Under the proposal, Samson would purchase a northern section of the park, thus reducing the cost of the rest of the park to be purchased by a nonprofit cooperative formed by the tenants association.

While reducing the number of homes from 60 to 52, the cost of purchasing a share in the cooperative – representing one mobile home space each – would be at a level said to be affordable to most residents interested in purchasing a share.

Ideas included allowing the city or an affordable housing organizations to step in as “angels” to purchase one share each for residents who cannot afford to buy into the cooperative.

The public entity could then sell the mobile home – without land cost – to income-qualified families. Angel-supported home purchasers would own their home and have voting rights in the cooperative like other shareholders.

This arrangement would offset tenant worries about having absentee owners. Terry said it is important for the neighborhood to be made up of homeowners.

“We want people to own and put down roots,” she said.

Next steps include discussions to prepare two documents to present to the City Council on July 14.

One is creating a covenant between the Tenants Association, the city and Madison Glenn Corp. – Samson’s company. Major points will include keeping a portion of the mobile home park as such in perpetuity, and setting a range for the number of mobile homes – likely pegged close to today’s number.

The city may also be a financial player, with $200,000 available that was previously allocated to help the KCCHA purchase the park.

“With all of these pieces of the puzzle still to be decided... I am very excited and happy for Bainbridge Island and the mobile home association,” Kordonowy said.

“None of that could have happened without Mrs. Pat Alderman being patient as others talked about her property.

“I’m relying on her (Alderman) desire to continue to preserve what she started 30 years ago. She’s provided that (affordable housing) for families for over 30 years, and if we can do that, we can build on that.”

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