Jefferson County housing deemed not so affordable; forum tonight

PORT TOWNSEND — Jefferson County has the fourth least-affordable housing in the state for rentals and bounces between second and third least affordable for purchase, said one of the panelists for tonight’s forum on affordable housing.

Jaime Maciejewski, director of Habitat for Humanity of East Jefferson County, said affordability is determined not by the price of the housing, but by the number of jobs available and the percentage of income paid for housing.

Ensuring that housing is available will take coordination among government agencies and community members.

“Affordable housing is an extremely complex issue that will take patience and partnerships to tackle,” said another panelist, Judy Surber, Port Townsend city planner.

The forum, “Raising the Roof on Affordable Housing for Working People in East Jefferson County,” will be from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Quimper Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, 2333 San Juan Ave.

Other panelists will be Paul Purcell of Beacon Development Group, David Rymph of Homeward Bound, Jefferson County Department of Community Development Director Al Scalf, Pam Tietz of the Peninsula Housing Authority and Port Townsend City Councilwoman Kris Nelson. Port Townsend Leader publisher Scott Wilson will serve as moderator.

Surber said the common equation — which states paying more than 35 percent of total income for housing indicates unaffordability — isn’t always accurate since some people have high salaries or low mortgages or rents.

She added that the city of Port Townsend is providing opportunities for low-income housing by encouraging alternative dwelling units, boarding houses and fewer conventional housing spaces.

“There are affordable housing opportunities in Port Townsend,” she said.

Purcell said the ability to provide affordable housing depends on the state and isn’t consistent through the years.

The state Legislature allocated $100 million to the Washington State Trust Fund in 2009 but only $30 million in 2010, he said.

“The House has allocated $40 million, and the governor’s budget has $60 million, but we don’t know what the Senate will do until next week,” he said.

A lower funding level for this program will affect affordable housing programs throughout the state, he said,

Purcell said decreasing real estate values doesn’t necessarily lead to more affordable housing opportunities because of an often-comparable decrease in livable wage jobs.

Maciejewski stressed a need for partnerships to steer people who are in need of affordable options and home repairs to the right place.

“If someone has a leaky roof, we should be able to steer them to where they can get it fixed for a reasonable price,” she said.

“In many cases, low-interest loans and grants are available.”

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Jefferson County Reporter Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at [email protected]

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