Saturday, July 08, 2017

Housing Authority Gets OK To Unload Aging, Obsolete 244-Unit Rent-Subsidized Apartment Complex, Giving Hundreds Of Poor, Soon-To-Be Uprooted Households 24 Months To Move; Likelihood Of Finding New Landlords Willing To Accept Section 8 Vouchers Unclear

In Everett, Washington, reports:
  • The Everett Housing Authority is preparing to start a two-year process of moving 244 households from Baker Heights, now that federal officials granted permission to sell the public housing complex.

    Baker Heights includes a few dozen one-story buildings in north Everett’s Delta neighborhood. The cost of fixing the World War II-era structures — an estimated $42 million — is prohibitively expensive. Selling the land could net the housing authority millions of dollars to pay for new development.

    “It’s been our biggest property for (more than) 70 years, so it’s a big milestone for the agency,” executive director Ashley Lommers-Johnson said.

    To let tenants know more about the plans, the housing authority has scheduled meetings on Wednesday and Thursday.

    The agency hopes to start helping people move as soon as August. To make that possible, qualifying tenants will get Section 8 vouchers to help cover rent in other public housing complexes or in privately owned buildings. The agency has offered to pay moving expenses.

    The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development granted permission to sell the property on June 4.

    Federal officials determined that Baker Heights is obsolete because rehabilitating the property would cost more than 57 percent of the replacement cost. A failing sewage system is among the needed upgrades.

    The sale has been a long time in the making. The housing authority made that decision in 2005.
    The housing authority already has hosted a series of meetings about the planned move, which has been delayed from its original start date in late 2016. People would leave over the course of 24 months, as vouchers become available. Meetings have been translated into Arabic, Russian, Spanish, Vietnamese and Marshallese, the language of the Marshall Islands in the South Pacific Ocean.

    Long-time Baker Heights resident Michael Hill said he’s pleased with the outreach, but worries about what lies ahead.

    “In a lot of ways they’re really being supportive,” Hill said. “The major problem is the uprooting of the community and finding affordable housing within a reasonable distance.”

    It’s unclear whether any landlords in Everett, or anywhere nearby, will accept Section 8 vouchers. Hill said he’s been searching from Pierce County to Skagit County, without luck. He’d like to stay involved with his local church and community. Other families may have to put children in different schools.