Bill Effinger | Adequate housing for all Poulsbo citizens, a must

Mayor and city council must assure affordable housing is available

By Bill Effinger

Guest Columnist, North Kitsap Herald

A shortage of apartments with affordable rents commensurate with the average young-family incomes in Poulsbo will restrict growth plans of city leaders and quicken increased gentrification of the general population.

A recent study by Apartment Insights, which compiles statistics from surveys of apartment complexes with 50 or more units, stated that Kitsap tenants paid more than $1,300 a month on average for apartments in the first quarter of 2018.

Personal income for Poulsbo residents in 2016 (latest available figures) was $29,562, meaning a single person or a family with one wage earner would have to pay 52 percent of his or her income, while the maximum HUD suggested ratio is 30 percent — an obvious disconnect.

There are many grants available to municipalities for housing, beginning with the federal government, nonprofits, trade unions and major corporations. But it takes a commitment from those municipalities. In this case, I am referring to the City of Poulsbo.

Grants for acquiring and developing parks and recreation facilities seem to be readily available, such as the recent $400,000 grant to Poulsbo for acquiring the waterfront property along Viking Way, as recently announced by the mayor. While I recognize the funds were from a Park and Recreation grant, this kind of money would go a long way toward an affordable housing project if a housing grant were sought — but it takes commitment on the part of the city.

Where is that commitment?

Mayor Erickson has heralded the future 550-unit luxury condominium project at the corner of 305 and Bond Road that is certain to be a great addition for those fortunate enough to be able to purchase a unit. But what about the members of the community who do not have the income or wherewithal to purchase decent housing they can afford?

The secret to having a viable thriving community that addresses a wide range of citizenry in all age and family demographic profiles is balance. Poulsbo’s large number of retired homeowners and renters points to a gentrification issue not yet critical but could become one if the younger population’s need for housing is not addressed soon.

One of my former clients, affordable-housing developer Affirmed Housing, Inc., has built thousands of affordable units throughout California. It just completed an award-winning project for the homeless in San Diego using grants and city-county funding, showing that it can be done.

Maybe when the City Council begins to search for an executive administrator (assuming that is the direction they are going), they will seek a person who has experience in housing finance issues, of which there are several, I am sure.

A more immediate effort might be for the council to create a housing task force, similar to what cities in other communities and states have looked to for helping resolve the complex issues. I served on such a commission in the city of Escondido, California, many years ago and my oldest son served on a similar commission in the city of San Marcos, California.

There are hundreds of similar organizations throughout the nation from which the mayor and council can draw information. A quick Google search presents many such organizations. Here are just a few: CHAFA, Volunteers of America, American Seniors Housing Association and Retirement Housing Foundation.

I believe it is incumbent on Poulsbo’s mayor and City Council to undertake the formation of a citizen task force for the purpose of attempting to solve the issues of affordable housing in our city before the need reaches crisis proportions.

An interview with Councilman Ed Stern is coming next week.

—Bill Effinger can be reached at bill@billeffinger.net and @WREPro on Twitter

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