Housing Resources Board (HRB) on Affordable Housing on the Island –

Phedra Elliott Executive Director and Penny Lamping, Fundraising and Communications Manager HRB has almost 30 years of experience in providing housing and housing related services to the citizens of Bainbridge Island. We own and operate 90 units of rental housing and have built and sold 42 homes in our Community Land Trust to income qualified home buyers.  We also operate housing programs, such as Independent Living.

On Bainbridge there are currently 283 units of what we would call “Capital A” affordable housing, meaning that the tenant must go through an income certification process and the rents at those properties must not exceed rents set by federal or state entities.  For those 283 units of Affordable Housing there are currently over 400 households on the waiting lists.

Throughout the years, the state of housing affordability on Bainbridge Island has worsened as housing costs increase.  Incomes have not kept up with rising rents and housing prices, and on Bainbridge we have created very few housing units overall compared to the growth in our community.  This results in housing that is scarce and expensive.  Those on the lower end of the economic spectrum bear the burden first because they are unable to pay those increased prices and are forced to move, disrupting their lives and the lives of their children.  In the long term, the effects of this are not good for any of us or for our environment as many who work here are forced into long commutes.

The City of Bainbridge Island convened an Affordable Housing Task Force in 2017. We participated in the Task Force with affordable housing provider Housing Kitsap, developers (one small and one larger), architects, as well as community members who are concerned about the need for affordable housing. Their task was to develop strategies the City could take to improve access to affordable housing across the economic spectrum: to find solutions which balanced costs and benefits to the community. After meeting for a year, they presented their final report and recommendations here to the City Council.

 The Task Force’s five Priority Recommendations include: 

  • Develop code changes to encourage infill in the Designated Centers,
  • Pursue opportunities to partner with private and non-profit sectors to build more units, encourage ADU’s with new procedures,
  • Adopt an “Innovations Program”,
  • Create a permanent affordable housing committee and
  • Designate a City employee who will spend at least half-time on affordable housing strategies.

There were also five “Quick Wins” which can be implemented immediately as well as the additional strategies to be explored. The Quick Wins consist of allowing the maximum number of liveaboards in the Dave Ullin Open Water Marina, adopting a vacation rental ordinance, permitting fast-tracking and fee reduction for affordable applications, utilizing the Housing Trust Fund regularly and adopting a Cottage Housing Ordinance.

At the City Council Study Session held on August 21st, the Council discussed the report and the recommendations. They voted unanimously to accept the entire report and the recommendations included in it. They will be moving forward – working with consultants to develop the Inclusionary Zoning ordinance, examining the budget to assess the ability to hire a part time housing staff person, etc.

We at HRB feel encouraged by this support from the Council and are grateful to planner Jennifer Sutton for her guidance during this process, as well as council liaisons Sarah Blossom, Mike Scott, and Leslie Schneider. The conversation around affordable housing is not new, but it has become more urgent. We believe it takes government as well as community support to make real progress.

Many amazing people that live and work here.  Losing any one of us because housing is out of reach and not gaining those who want and need to live here threatens the very fabric of the Island – the diversity and vitality that comes when all kinds of people from different backgrounds live together.  Knowing and being a part of the lives of all kinds of people is what makes Bainbridge great.  It makes any community healthier and stronger.  Many islanders may never need HRB’s housing or services, but our work and our mission touches everyone on Bainbridge with few degrees of separation.  Past, present, and future HRB recipients are likely to be in the crowd at any location or event on Bainbridge: friends, neighbors, and coworkers of all incomes live, work and volunteer here. There is no “them” vs. “us”.  We are all them and we are all us.  We are connected.

Learn more about HRB at www.housingresourcesbi.org.  Like and follow us on Facebook and Instagram!

Links: State of Washington Housing Needs Assessment – http://www.commerce.wa.gov/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/AHAB-Housing-Needs-Assessment.pdf

State of Washington Housing Needs Assessment – Kitsap County data – http://www.commerce.wa.gov/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/AHAB-needs-study-Kitsap.pdf