Opinion

HRB’s Ferncliff project offers exciting challenge | Guest Column | June 18

I recently moved to Bainbridge Island from Albuquerque, N.M., to take the position of executive director with the Housing Resources Board. HRB is a nonprofit organization devoted to providing housing for low- and moderate-income families who live or work on the island. HRB and its supporters value the diversity and vitality that a mixed-income community provides. They are committed to maintaining that richness on Bainbridge Island.

HRB currently accomplishes this goal in three ways and is working on a fourth. HRB operates affordable rental properties.

Our HomeShare program matches people looking to share space with a homeowner wanting assistance with work around the house or rental income to offset mortgage costs.

In addition, our Independent Living Program allows elderly and disabled people to be able to stay in their homes by making their homes accessible and safe.

Finally, HRB is in the process of creating a Community Land Trust (CLT) on 6.2 acres located on Ferncliff Avenue.

Commun-ity Land Trust taps into my own unique skill set as former executive director of Sawmill CLT, one of the largest contiguous CLTs in the country, and as a former Albuquerque city planner. The idea of creating a CLT and the challenges it poses are what most excited me about HRB and ultimately brought me to Bainbridge Island.

We are in a most critical time in our economic history, a time of disillusionment with our existing institutions. A troubled time is also an opportune time to try new ways of organizing and producing. The CLT is a hybrid of community and private ownership with the goal of creating permanent affordable housing.

The CLT home is not only affordable for the initial home buyer, but it stays affordable through a deed restriction or land lease provision that limits appreciation to the buyer in exchange for an affordable price. That ownership model has been tested now for over 30 years, and there are almost 250 CLTs around the country.

This record of longevity and expansion has demonstrated its marketability and its effectiveness in the worst recession since the Great Depression and its price stability even during rapid inflationary periods.

What then are the challenges for HRB? The primary challenge is in managing costs and generating sufficient revenue to building Ferncliff while maintaining affordable prices. A second challenge is recognizing that harnessing the energy of the community we are creating is critical to accomplishing our mission.

After six weeks on the job, I have been assessing the work HRB has done and the best steps for moving forward. Though there are many challenges, a solid base has been laid for progress. Past and present board and staff deserve our sincere appreciation.  

Ferncliff will soon begin construction. Our target is April 2011 with infrastructure and the first phase of 16 homes. The project is designed and site planned to meet energy efficient and sustainable design criteria. Ferncliff has gone through a year-long effort with eco-charrettes and public review to be approved as the first and so far only project to meet the criteria of the Bainbridge Island’s Housing Design Demonstration Project Ordinance (HDDP). 

This ordinance provides incentives, including a density bonus, for meeting rigorous criteria in affordability and sustainable design features. Formal submittal to the city for site plan approval will occur within the next few weeks.

Now is the time to act. At this critical time we have the opportunity to make a difference. HRB has provided 20 years of building community through housing. With the Ferncliff CLT, we have an effective and sustainable model to build a more diverse community on Bainbridge Island.

To that end, HRB is hosting Rise and Shine, our first annual fundraising breakfast. Scheduled for June 23 from 7:30-9 a.m. at Bainbridge Island High School, the event is HRB’s way of celebrating what it means to call Bainbridge Island “home.”

The program will showcase the value of diversity in the community. For more information go to our website at www.housingresourcesboard.org or call 842-1909. I look forward to working with you.

Ken Balizer is executive director of Bainbridge Island’s

Housing Resources Board.

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