Peninsula Housing Authority details ‘life-changing program’ at Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce event
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Carolyn Stimbert of the Peninsula Housing Authority speaks to the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce on Monday. — Charlie Bermant/Peninsula Daily News

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND — Low-income residents stuck on the rent treadmill can benefit from a self-help home-building program, which both increases pride of ownership and provides previously unavailable opportunities, according to a presentation for the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce on Monday.

“This is a life-changing program,” said Peninsula Housing Authority director Carolyn Stimbert of her agency’s construction of homes for low-income citizens.

“One lady came to the office in Port Townsend and said ‘my mom did this ten years ago and it changed our lives, I want to do this for my kids.’”

“It gives hope and gives people a way to think differently about themselves, gives them security not only for themselves, but for their extended family.”

About 30 people attended the event, which was a short introduction followed by questions.

“People have pride in these homes,” Stimbert said, “And there is not anywhere else where you can move into a development immediately knowing your neighbors and becoming close to them.”

Port Townsend City Council member Robert Gray asked about the difference between the PHA and Habitat for Humanity.

Stimbert said the concept was the same, but the PHA has no resale restrictions and requires about 1,200 hours of sweat equity per house, as opposed to Habitat’s 500.

The programs both have a barrier to entry tied to income and can provide families who never thought they would live in a new home a path to ownership.

“I talk to a lot of people and they are often surprised by how easy it can be, that all they need to do to get a new home is to get a job,” Stimbert said.

“But in order to do this you really need to be committed and be willing to put in the work.”

The PHA, which is funded by the United States Department of Agriculture, has a chart determining income eligibility for the program, families with one wage earner in Jefferson County can’t earn more than $35,560 a year while those in Clallam top off at $32,550.

The number is keyed to Federal median income statistics, the difference between the two counties exists because Clallam has a lower median income than Jefferson.

Aside from meeting credit criteria participants must work 32 hours a week during the construction of the house although this can be split between multiple family members.

After operating in Port Angeles, Forks and Sequim the PHA is planning its first Port Townsend development, expected to be seven one family houses on a single tract of land that will give all of those involved a chance at a new home.

The land hasn’t yet been purchased but there are several possible sites, Stimbert said. and the seven-family development could be completed by the middle of 2015.

The agency also has plans to build in Port Hadlock but not until a sewer is installed.

“We don’t want to place any low income people in a home that uses a septic tank or a well because if either one fails they won’t be able to meet the expense and it will put them out of the house,” Stimbert said.

Stimbert said the homes are developed individually for each location and are varied in design to avoid a cookie cutter character.

Once completed and occupied there are no restrictions, the new owners can sell or rent the house and their income no longer needs to be below a certain level.

Stimbert describes the homes as “modest” as three bedroom configurations measure at around 1200 square feet, while the mortgage payments range between $550 tp $760 a month “which is lower than rent,” she said.

For more information call 360-452-7631, go to peninsulapha.org or write cstimbert@peninsulapha.org.

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Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or cbermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: January 27. 2014 7:07PM
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