Create a Housing Trust Fund to invest in best solutions | Kitsap Housing Crisis

Community investments in ferries are as crucial to our future as investments in our people.

Affordable housing is at the center of the human systems that keep our communities and citizens safe and moving forward. To address the need for affordable housing, respond to the crisis and be successful, we should create a Kitsap County Housing Trust Fund to invest in the best solutions to our unique issues in two areas: units and people.

Affordable housing is the foundation. It is as diverse as the people who live here. It includes tents, shelters, Housing First units, apartments and houses. It serves single parents who are working hard in a housing market that is quickly moving out of reach. It supports vulnerable people like seniors, veterans, youth aging out of foster care, people with disabilities, and those with few resources to live in a healthy safe place.

One definition of affordable housing is based on how much a family is paying for housing. It is “affordable” if they are not paying more than 30 percent of their gross income. To pay more is to be “burdened.” And as many as 55 percent of Kitsap County residents are burdened, which forces difficult choices on families that may already be stressed. And that has long-term impacts on them and on our community. Kitsap County needs more units with rents targeted to match the incomes of our working and low-income families so that they pay for housing consistent with their resources.

People get into difficult situations and need help for many reasons. Support comes from the generosity of individuals, from the faith community, and from our local grant programs. It is extraordinary, incredibly helpful, generally limited in scale and tends to be short term. We can all take pride in how we step up to help others who need it. But we also need local, reliable, long-term financial support. A Kitsap County-based housing subsidy would counter balance reducing federal programs and leverage conventional funds to invest in local projects. With both, we can help people find emergency shelter, avoid homelessness, or stabilize their lives in permanent housing.

Affordable housing by itself doesn’t changes lives; it is the platform. The catalyst is the program manager at a tent city, the case manager making referrals at a permanent supportive housing community, and the resident services director that runs after school programs for kids. Unfortunately, funding for these extraordinary people is the hardest funding of all to find and sustain.

An annual $11 million investment over 10 years would fund the human capital we all depend on now and in the future. Part could fund a revolving loan program to construct new units at all income levels. The interest could provide a stable local housing subsidy for vulnerable people and the staff that enables them to become more independent and self-reliant. An endowment like a Kitsap County Housing Trust Fund insures we can address today’s issues as well as invest in future solutions.

Editor’s note: What are your views on the affordable housing crisis? Write rwalker@soundpublishing.com. Keep your letter to 350 words to provide room for other views. Include your name and phone number for verification purposes.

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