Feds try to keep low-income in BI apartments

Some Bainbridge Island seniors were worried they would become homeless upon hearing their rent could increase up to 50%.

But the federal government stepped in and wouldn’t let that happen. You read that right. The feds saved the day.

Housing Kitsap recently sent its annual budget as usual to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development. It asked for the increase due to higher costs in running the program and because it hasn’t been able to afford upkeep on the 29 one-bedroom, one-bath Finch Place apartments in Winslow.

“Just because they came up with that amount doesn’t mean they’re going to get it,” said Heidi Patterson, coordinator for USDARD. She said rent hasn’t been raised there in 10 years, but that doesn’t mean they can make that all up in one year. She said the USDARD planned to meet with those involved to “sort this all out. My guess is that we will knock this down considerably.”

Neither she nor Housing Kitsap returned calls after the meeting, however, to give the Review its final decision.

Patterson said she has never seen a request that high in 20 years working for the agency. “It knocked me right out of my seat.”

She said most of the residents receive government subsidies for rental assistance. “No matter how high it gets they’re covered,” Patterson said. “It doesn’t affect their bottom line.”

So, she’s most concerned about the seven who aren’t subsidized. She said she wished they had the money to just assign them the rental assistance they need, but “D.C. is making all of those decisions.”

Recently, residents received notice signed by Melissa Ingulsrud, regional director of Property Management for Housing Kitsap. The notices notified tenants of a proposed monthly rent increase of $454.

Residents complained to the BI City Council, Housing Kitsap and USDARD.

An anonymous letter sent to the BI Review says Finch Place is a great location, near downtown volunteer work and the senior center. It says there is no place else to go, and most don’t have funds to move anyway. It adds: “It was more difficult to get accepted at Finch Place than it was to get into college. Moving in … was the hardest move I have ever made because of the downsizing…I spend time on my deck listening to bird songs and watching the clouds roll by. Why would I want to leave this?”

Heather Brough, Housing Kitsap director, said the rent increases would start July 1. She said many tenants are having a “tough time right now.” But, since Housing Kitsap is an affordable housing agency, it is working to try to keep everyone in their homes. “We’re working on if they can be subsidized.”

She wished they were given more time, she said, adding people are always nervous about housing when things are changing. She did say the Bremerton Housing Authority was accepting new Section 8 housing applications starting May 16.

“Our goal is to house people; find out what might be available,” Brough said. “The people who aren’t eligible for subsidies are the hard part.”