This is the third in a series of columns focusing on the topics that were selected by participants at the March 2019 Kingston Community Conversation. We’ll let you know what was discussed, what’s already happening on the issue and how you can help the community implement solutions. You can learn more about the Community Conversations by going to kingstoncares.org/events and scrolling down the page. This month, as we approach Thanksgiving and the winter season, we’re talking about affordable housing.
Participants at the 2019 Conversation on the topic listed increasing homelessness and dwindling affordable housing options among their top concerns. As local housing prices continue to surge, the stock of affordable housing has naturally declined.
Kingston’s affordable housing situation has long been a point of community concern. In 2014, Kingston Cares opened a severe weather shelter in conjunction with Kitsap County’s Department of Emergency Management. At that time the Kingston shelter was the only severe weather shelter in the county outside of Bremerton. The shelter has an activation window from November to March – but it is only open when the weather dips below freezing or the forecast is for more than an inch of rain or snow. Over the years, it has served a wide variety of individuals and families ranging in age from toddler to teen to those in their seventies. For more information on the shelter or to volunteer, visit kingstoncares.org/shelter.
Volunteers at the shelter along with Kingston Cares members and others in the community formed the Kingston Affordable Housing Working Group (KAHWG) in 2017. The group set about researching the housing resources and needs in our community, which included a 2019 survey completed by more than 300 North Kitsap residents which documented that a significant number surveyed face housing insecurity.
Kitsap County and the City of Bremerton have commissioned an Affordable Housing Inventory and Market Analysis which will be released in January 2020. It will include an analysis of the need for affordable housing now and in the future, and make recommendations for how Kitsap jurisdictions can work towards policies that support meeting these needs.
Today, there are a very limited number of income-based rental units in Kingston that are primarily available to senior citizens – at the Martha & Mary Village Green Apartments and at Times Square. Both have lengthy waiting lists. Housing Kitsap (housingkitsap.org) and Habitat for Humanity (kitsaphabitat.org) operate some units of owner-built affordable housing in the area. The new Seaside 140-townhouse development on Lindvog Road includes no affordable units, and Kitsap County currently has no mechanism for requiring developers to provide affordable housing. While there is some federal and state funding available to produce more units, the application process is very competitive and there are no active proposals (through these programs or otherwise) to develop new affordable housing for our town.
The Housing Solutions Center of Kitsap County (kcr.org/housing/), a county-funded program, assists households who are experiencing homelessness or housing instability get connected with shelter, housing, and community resources. However, the need for shelter beds, rental assistance, and permanent housing that is affordable to lower-income households far outstrips the resources to provide them to all who need housing assistance. In North Kitsap, the Housing Solutions Center office is located at North Kitsap Fishline in Poulsbo. Fishline also offers some homelessness prevention and rental assistance, as well as managing a home sharing program and a safe parking program for people living in their cars.
Kitsap Homes of Compassion (kitsaphoc.org), which currently operates 12 shared-housing homes elsewhere around the county, has funding for a potential group home in Kingston to serve senior citizens, individuals with disabilities, and/or single mothers with young children. Establishment of this house is dependent upon finding a landlord willing to lease a 4-5 bedroom home on or near the bus line, and finding volunteer house managers to meet weekly with tenants to assure smooth operation of the house.
Clearly, additional options are needed, as are interested volunteers to join those actively working on solutions. The League of Women Voters is hosting a forum on sheltering Kitsap County’s homeless residents on Saturday, Nov. 2 from 10 a.m. until noon in the Norm Dicks Government Center in Bremerton. KAHWG will next meet on Tuesday, Nov. 12 at 4 p.m. at Village Green to set its agenda for 2020. All who are interested in finding solutions for Kingston’s lack of affordable housing are welcome to attend. For more information about KAHWG and related issues, contact Stan Mack (president@king stoncares.org).
Stan Mack is the president of Kingston Cares, chairman of the Kingston Affordable Housing Work Group and a member of Kingston-North Kitsap Rotary Club.