Nest Egg Project aspires to boost affordable housing

Chris Tucker ctucker@ptleader.com
Posted 1/16/18

For one woman who strongly supports affordable housing, the question is simple.

“What kind of society do you want to live in? A society that cares for people? Or a society that says, ‘I’ve …

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Nest Egg Project aspires to boost affordable housing

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For one woman who strongly supports affordable housing, the question is simple.

“What kind of society do you want to live in? A society that cares for people? Or a society that says, ‘I’ve got mine’?” asked Lauri Chambers, a member of The Nest Egg Project (TNEP), which was started to promote affordable housing in Jefferson County.

Chambers is not alone in hoping something can be done about the lack of affordable housing.

The Nest Egg group has the ambitious goal of identifying 1,000 households that are willing to donate to Homeward Bound, which is a nonprofit community land trust that has the goal of providing affordable housing on the Olympic Peninsula.

So far, Nest Egg is about one-tenth of the way toward that goal, with 100 pledges to donate.

The group set up a table outside the Food Co-op three times in October and November to get passersby interested in its project.

Fellow Nest Egg member Trish Walat said she was collecting signatures at the Food Co-op one day “and a woman came up and she said that she had lived in Port Townsend for 20 years and she worked here, and she’s now living in a tent because she can’t find affordable housing.

“There are people who live here, who work here, who are part of the community, who can’t find housing because it’s too expensive, and that’s not right. If we’re a community, then we care about people who don’t have affordable housing,” Walat said.

“If you have housing, it means that you have a job. If you have a job, you’re paying taxes. If you’re paying taxes, you’re supporting the community. If you don’t have a house, then you don’t. And it’s necessary – to live like a human being – to have a house,” Walat said.

Walat said housing is especially important for children.

“It takes them years to get over that trauma of not having a house,” Walat said.

Celeste Bennett, also with Nest Egg, said a society in which resources are available across economic classes would be more stable.

Without affordable housing, the gap between the haves and have-nots would grow, Bennett said. And even those with housing would pay in the form of funding infrastructure costs of moving out-of-area workers into Port Townsend.

TO HOMEWARD BOUND

The Nest Egg Project isn’t a nonprofit and does not deal with money directly. Instead, it directs people to Homeward Bound.

Homeward Bound was recently reformed and is to be in charge of the Cherry Street eight-unit affordable apartment project, which the City of Port Townsend is working on.

The Cherry Street project is “wonderful,” Chambers said. “I like it because it’s an edifice. It’s there – something you can point at and say, ‘We did this.’”

Donating is not the only way to help Nest Egg, group members said. Other non-monetary ways to help include promoting Nest Egg and Homeward Bound by talking about the issue with friends and family or by volunteering.

The Nest Egg Project’s Facebook page (“Nest Egg Project Jefferson County”) includes a link to the Homeward Bound contact page for donations, said Nest Egg member Linda Brewster.

WITHOUT PROPOSITION 1

Nest Egg formed on Oct. 3, five weeks before the Nov. 7 election in which a tax levy called Proposition 1 was put before voters. Proposition 1 would have provided funding for low-income and very low-income housing in Jefferson County by levying 36 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value.

Brewster said some potential donors told Nest Egg they wanted to wait and see if Proposition 1 passed before donating to Homeward Bound.

Proposition 1 was overwhelmingly rejected, with 68 percent voting against it and 31 percent in favor.

Still, Brewster said, she is optimistic that those potential donors who held off would now be willing to give.

Nest Egg also is trying to bypass the political divisiveness of Proposition 1.

“We all really want to have Homeward Bound become an institution that’s embraced by the community. We’re very nonpartisan,” Chambers said.

“That’s really important. It’s really about building community,” Brewster added.

“We were concerned that there could be a loss of momentum if the proposition didn’t pass. And it was clear that it was really controversial,” Bennett said.

With that in mind, Bennett wanted Nest Egg to “harness some of the energy that’s out there and basically become a booster club for a model that we all support – the community land trust model,” which is the model that Homeward Bound follows.

Brewster said members of Homeward Bound told her the donations Homeward Bound has received so far “could pretty much all be attributed to our work.”

80 PLEDGES TO DONATE

Serenity Lumbard, a Homeward Bound trustee, confirmed that over three days, Nest Egg had collected more than 250 signatures, and that of those 250, 80 signers pledged to donate the amount they would have paid in Prop. 1 taxes.

“Trustee Krista Paradise reported rough numbers in mid-December of approximately $900 that had come in due to TNEP. All donations are mailed to our P.O. Box in Port Angeles,” Lumbard wrote in an email to The Leader.

“We kind of expect a groundswell of support from people who backed Prop. 1,” Walat said. “It seems like they were more than willing, as it was, to be taxed. So, the assumption is they’re willing to continue to commit to affordable housing as we all are,” Walat said.

Chambers said it was important to “keep everybody talking about housing.”

“The Nest Egg Project is wonderful,” wrote Monica Bell, president of the Homeward Bound board, to The Leader. “The community members that initiated it, the symbolism of the name, the way people respond when they hear about it – it’s inspiring,” Bell wrote.

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