The two building lots on a Fort Ward hillside are impressive enough in their own right, covered with tall firs and madrona trees, offering sunny western exposures and filtered views of Port Orchard and the Olympics.
For two Bainbridge Island single mothers, though, they are more than just prime real estate. They are spots where the women and their children can put down roots, and enjoy a sense of permanence that most of us take for granted.
“This will be a good spot for the kids, and it will be wonderful to have a place to stay where we don’t have to move,” said Lynne, a mother of two, who asked that her real name not be used.
The lots were purchased this week by Habitat for Humanity, whose volunteer crews will build two affordable houses on the lots – one for Lynne and the other for Kathy Duprey, who also has two children.
Habitat recently closed on a third Bainbridge Island lot off Hidden Cove Road. That will become home to Shane and Katie Butler and their three sons, a young family with strong island connections.
The lots cost $60,000 each – extremely modest for Bainbridge, but high for Habitat. “Governments used to just give us the lots, but that doesn’t happen anymore,” said Pat Nordmark, treasurer for the Kitsap County Habitat chapter.
Money for the three Bainbridge lots came from a $32,000 per-lot grant from the Kitsap County Community Development Bloc Grant program and a $25,000 per-lot contribution from the Bainbridge Island Housing Trust Fund. The remaining $10,000 came from the Windermere Foundation, a combination of donations from the local Windermere agents and company matches.
The three Bainbridge lots are ideal for Habitat because they have sewage disposal and water facilities available, said Dan Nordmark, Pat’s husband and the head of the North Kitsap construction team.
While the Hidden Cove property doesn’t have a sewer, the lot there is the rear portion of a larger lot. It contains the septic drainfield – a series of mounds – for the home built on the front portion, but the field is for both homes.
“It makes for kind of a whimsical backyard with all the hills,” said Dan Nordmark. But it has a peek-a-boo view of Hidden Cove, and the plan is to build the house where both the living room and the deck can see the water.
Each of the Bainbridge Habitat homes has a sponsoring organization that will raise $45,000 to cover the costs of construction materials. Rolling Bay Presbyterian Church will sponsor the Hidden Cove site, while the island’s lawyers and dentists will work side by side at Fort Ward.
Timing of the home-building will depend on weather and how fast Nordmark can assemble construction crews.
“We have about 35 people on the North Kitsap construction team,” Dan Nordmark said. “The lawyers and dentists will want to be hands-on, so we’ll pick up new volunteers. It will depend upon how fast they can be trained.
“There’s nothing hard about pounding a nail – you just have to know which one to pound first.”
The goal is to finish the Bainbridge homes by Christmas.
When the two- and three-bedroom units are finished, they will be sold to the owning families at what Pat Nordmark calls the “Habitat price,” which is basically the cost of the materials plus some portion of the land costs.
The owners are then given a 20-year mortgage at no interest, so that if the “Habitat price” is $72,000, payments will be $300 per month, plus taxes and insurance. That money goes back into Habitat operations.
To prevent quick sales for profit, the homes are appraised when they are finished. Habitat takes a second mortgage on the difference between the appraised value and the “Habitat price.” If the home is sold within five years, that second mortgage is enforced in full. Thereafter, one-fifteenth of the second mortgage is forgiven each year, so that after 20 years, the house is owned free and clear.
The City of Bainbridge Island has a similar arrangement with respect to the $25,000 per lot it contributed.
To qualify, families need a wage-earner, but income has to be less than half of the median income for Kitsap County. The families also need to contribute at least 500 hours of “sweat equity” – work on their own house and on another house.
Indeed, 250 of those hours must be put in before work begins on their own home, so Lynne and Kathy Duprey are each working Saturdays on a Hansville-area home. The Butlers, who qualified for Habitat over a year ago, have worked on several homes in the county.
The teamwork aspect is important for Duprey, who lives in a single-wide mobile home with what she calls a “major moisture problem” and less than 500 square feet of room.
“I’m taken aback by how many people are involved, working together to help other people,” she said. “It’s very do-able that way.”
Duprey’s first contact with Habitat was as a possible volunteer. But as she learned more about Bainbridge Island, where she moved four years ago from Alaska, she knew that even though her one-person landscape business had all the work she could handle, she wouldn’t be able to afford a house on the island.
Qualifying for the Habitat house means she can dig in and make this community her home.
“I never dreamed I’d have a view of the water,” she said.
Lynne grew up on Bainbridge, moved away, then came back to the area and bought a house in Suquamish. When her parents became ill, though, she had to sell that house to help them out. She moved to Bainbridge, and enrolled her kids in school, but lives in a rental house that leaves something to be desired, she said.
“I’m looking forward to a warm, dry house,” she said, adding that her present home is never warm in winter “from the knees down.”
Lynne’s economic situation is similar to Duprey’s. A house-cleaner, Lynne has all the work she can handle, but the money she makes doesn’t go far in the Bainbridge market.
“It was not affordable as an adult to live here,” she said. “I’m grateful for the affordable housing on Bainbridge. It was a miracle they were able to get the land.”
Moving back onto the island will be a homecoming for Katie Butler, and island native and Bainbridge High School graduate. And it will put husband Shane, a Poulsbo native, closer to his job as a carpenter with island builder Fairbank Construction. The family now lives in Silverdale.
“This is great for young families like us,” Katie Butler said. “Shane works so hard, but I thought we’d never get a home. I’m very thankful for this program.”
Butler’s emotional ties to the island are especially strong.
“My mom died when I was 18, and all of my friends are on the island. It will be good to be back home.”