Last week I heard two stories about young women, one a mother with a stable income, the other someone who has worked for many favorite local restaurants, who are now living without homes. What will …
Last week I heard two stories about young women, one a mother with a stable income, the other someone who has worked for many favorite local restaurants, who are now living without homes. What will be the long-term impacts of experiencing houselessess on these individuals? What will be the impacts of their instability on their employers or personal businesses? What will be the ripple effect on the rest of us?
Landlords and homeowners, I urge you to see yourself as stewards of a community resource because in the immediate and near term the health of our local families, the stability of our local businesses, and the resilience of our local economy depends on the housing that already exists being rented or sold to people who are working local jobs, making local wages.
On June 30 the eviction moratorium was replaced with a “bridge” proclamation that will last until Sept. 30. This bridge is meant to provide a path between the full eviction moratorium and the programs that were put in place by our state Legislature this spring.
With 12 percent of Washington’s renters behind on rent, and about 65 percent of those families with children, this bridge is crucial to mitigating the long-term and wide-ranging impacts of increased houselessness.
Tenants: Act now. Apply for rental assistance through OlyCAP, contact the Kitsap or Peninsula dispute resolution centers for help writing a repayment plan with your landlord, and know that you have the right to legal help during an eviction; reach out to Northwest Justice Project or Clallam-Jefferson Pro Bono Lawyers.
Landlords: You can apply for rental assistance on behalf of your tenants through OlyCAP. You must offer a repayment plan for rent owed during the pandemic. You may not evict a tenant for past rent due until there is an operational rental assistance program and eviction resolution program in the county and you have informed your tenant of these programs in writing. Rent increases require a 60-day written notice.
Jefferson County is still in the process of building an eviction resolution program. This process involves coordination between Peninsula and Kitsap Dispute Resolution Centers, our local court system, Clallam-Jefferson Pro Bono Lawyers, Northwest Justice Project, and OlyCAP.
While government and nonprofit agencies do the difficult work of implementing programs while building them, private individuals must also work to create grassroots, immediate solutions. Together, we must face the fact that, with housing inventory extremely low and housing prices and the cost of building extremely high, every individual housing transaction is making an impact, either positively or negatively.
Given the high list prices and continued trend of cash offers above-asking, folks working in our local economy have been priced out of most inventory on the open market. And every person who is displaced is a loss for the fabric of our community and a risk to our pandemic recovery.
By the same token, every unit that houses a local worker is a win for us all, whether it’s a home, an ADU, a bedroom in a shared home, or a place to park a home-on-wheels. Thank you to the many locally-based homeowners and property owners who have opened spaces to provide stable homes for so many of our community’s entrepreneurs, essential workers, and service providers.
(Justine Gonzalez-Berg is the Director of Housing Solutions Network and a working board member of Homeward Bound Community Land Trust.)