Bremerton is in a housing crisis. Rents have increased over 30% in the last two years and show no signs of slowing down. These same conditions exist throughout Kitsap County, the Seattle metro area, most parts of Washington State and the rest of the country. In fact, there isn’t a single state in the U.S. where someone working a full-time minimum wage job could afford to rent a two-bedroom apartment.
The average rent in Kitsap County is now $1,195 per month. The hourly wage necessary to afford an apartment in our area, $19.98, is nearly double the current minimum wage of $11.00 per hour. Rental housing supply is down, demand is up, and those with the lowest financial resources are being squeezed out to the point of homelessness.
Despite this grim reality, we are proud of our accomplishments at Bremerton Housing Authority in addressing the critical shelter needs of the most vulnerable in our community. Since BHA began the redevelopment of Westpark in 2007, there has been a 60% increase in the number of affordable housing units in Bremerton generated by this massive and innovative project.
This remarkable increase includes: 1.) New Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers allocated by HUD to assist with relocation (and which became a permanent addition to BHA's inventory of vouchers); 2.) Replacement affordable rental housing built in Bay Vista (the former Westpark site) including Bay Vista Commons, Bay Vista West, The Summit, Bay Vista South, and The Pearl on Oyster Bay; 3.) Owner-occupied single-family homes built in Bay Vista for lower income homeowners (including 6 homes developed by Habitat for Humanity); and 4.) Acquisition and renovation of multiple rental properties (Winfield, Shadow Creek, Charter House, Wright Court, and Casa Del Sol) in other parts of Bremerton that have been added to BHA's inventory of permanent affordable rental housing for lower-income households. We anticipate acquiring/developing more affordable housing in the near future.
Sadly, though, our demonstrated success in increasing the supply of affordable housing in Bremerton has not kept pace with the tremendous growing demand. Wages have remained stagnant and newly-built market-rate rental housing in the area remains out of reach for many. Compounding this situation has been serious reductions in federal funding over the last decade for our core programs, Section 8 and Public Housing. We can no longer look to the federal government for support in meeting local housing needs.
At BHA, we take seriously our role of being the primary provider of affordable rental housing in this community. We appreciate the significant support we have received as we continue to take on the challenge of increasing supply. I recognize we will likely always fall short of filling every need. The fact is, whether its shelter for the chronically homeless, veterans, persons with disabilities, victims of domestic violence, the elderly, and others in dire need, we simply don't have the resources to keep up with the demand. Nevertheless, at BHA we do the best we can, always looking for new partnerships, creative solutions, additional sources of funds, and other means to increase supply. Building on past successes, we resolutely forge forward to meet the great challenges in front of us.
BHA envisions a future where everyone has the opportunity for a home that is safe and affordable; people are treated with respect regardless of their income level or background; and a person's income level cannot be identified by the neighborhood they live.
Click here for BHA Vision, Mission and Statement of Values