One of my favorite things about this time of year is the hope that comes with the promise of spring, warmer weather, and longer days. It’s been just over one year since I started in the role of Executive Director here at Bremerton Housing Authority. Change is in the air, and I have a lot of updates to share.
First of all, we have had several important changes in leadership. Andi Reed accepted our position of the Director of Housing last fall. She leads both our housing management and property management teams and has already had a significant positive impact on staff and residents. One of her early achievements was to put in place a Resident Advisory Board which consists of residents at our properties who will provide input on our programmatic policy and housing operations. Also, Lori Reisinger joined the housing team as our Landlord Liaison. She assists landlords in navigating the Section 8 programs by providing training and outreach. We also hired a new Human Resources Manager, Paula Kennedy. Paula comes to us from the Everett Housing Authority and has jumped right in supporting staff and leadership as she leads our HR team. Lastly, with our strong focus on improving our communications in every aspect of our services, we recently hired Katie Sharp as our Communications Manager.
Our programs are growing as well. We have a goal to fully utilize all our Housing Choice Vouchers and ensure we can serve as many individuals and families as possible. With that in mind, we’ve been issuing new vouchers at high rates throughout the year, and we currently have over 100 voucher holders out shopping for affordable units. Although this is exciting, this has also proven to be an exceptional challenge in the housing market here in Bremerton and Kitsap County. Since our vouchers are limited to providing payments based on Fair Market Rents (FMRs) which are calculated by HUD, we often cannot compete with other renters because we can’t pay as much as others can for rent in this market.
To combat this problem, in partnership with Housing Kitsap, we performed our own rent study and surveyed Kitsap County renters. We asked HUD to consider our data which is based on more up-to-date information and is higher than HUD’s calculation. We submitted our results to HUD and just heard they approved the higher FMRs! They were increased by an average of almost 20 percent which means that our voucher holders will be able to afford higher rents and more unit options will be available to them. At least ten other programs administered by Kitsap County and Kitsap Community Resources (KCR) will also receive the direct benefit of the increased FMRs.
- If you are a current voucher holder out looking for a unit to rent, we will contact you after April 11 to discuss your updated affordability worksheet. Although you may have many questions, they will be processing as soon as possible and appreciate your patience.
- If you are a current voucher holder who is already in a unit, your assigned housing specialist will reach out to with more details during your annual certification process. There is nothing additional you need to do right now as the new payment standards will be applied automatically.
- If you are a current landlord, please visit our FAQ page for more information.
- If you have further questions about the updated FMRs, please reach out to our information desk at 360-616-7132.
For some more good news, in partnership with Kitsap County, KCR, DCYF, and Olive Crest, we started the Foster Youth to Independence voucher program. This program provides rental assistance vouchers for young adults aging out of foster care. Just this week, we received our first four vouchers for this program from HUD which have been or will be issued to four young adults in the coming days!
We also recently purchased five newly built homes to increase our own affordable housing stock. The Washington Department of Commerce awarded us a grant for part of the purchase price and our Board of Commissioners approved an investment of our reserves to complete the purchase. Also, we have begun preliminary drawings on an 8-unit development next to our Shadow Creek property and will be seeking development funding for this project over the coming year.
There are many things that we are pursuing and analyzing as we look for opportunities to carry out our mission and serve our community through housing. We know that none of what we do is possible without the many partner organizations who stand beside us and support us as we move forward. We love this community and are grateful to be serving here in Bremerton and Kitsap County.
Click here for BHA Vision, Mission, and Statement of Values.