By Josh Farley / Kitsap Sun
BREMERTON — Neighbor Louis Cobb gladly pitched in on a recent Saturday to help landscape a Highland Avenue property he once watched police officers refuse to enter because of its dilapidated state.
“This is a nice neighborhood. We help each other,” he said. “I’m looking to have another good neighbor in this house, too.”
The home also is a milestone for the nonprofit organization that brought it back from the brink. It’s the 20th residence rehabbed by Community Frameworks, a Northwest nonprofit whose specialty is to flip distressed properties while keeping their sales prices affordable.
Its “Built in Bremerton” program began in 2013 on the east side’s Eagle Avenue, and it has spread to include properties, many of which are foreclosed homes, all over the city.
Once flipped, the properties sell to “mortgage-ready” buyers whose income is at or below 80 percent of Kitsap County’s median income, according to Heather Wegan, a manager with the organization. Participants have included a dental hygienist, a shipyard worker, a bank clerk and others, who must also put in at least 50 hours of sweat equity in helping improve the home.
Here’s how it works: the nonprofit shops for homes on the cheap — sometimes free, as was the case on Highland, where the owner donated it. The organization then completes a top-to-bottom renovation with an emphasis on energy efficiency.
The home then goes onto the market at $50 less than the appraised value. Through government grants, the buyer receives down-payment assistance worth 20 percent of the home — but it must eventually be paid back. It makes the home more affordable, Wegan said, but it also creates some revenue downstream for the organization to use on future homes.
A lot has changed in Bremerton in the five years the nonprofit has been operating — namely, housing prices have greatly increased. But Wegan notes that there are still opportunities to help create affordable housing, all while improving the housing stock of a community. She added that the organization has added almost $2 million to the county’s tax rolls through its renovations.
“The changing market has made it more important than ever for us to capture these distressed homes into our program and reserve them for quality affordable home ownership opportunities,” she said. “If we don’t, the chances are greater than ever that these homes will either remain or be converted into low-quality rentals, or that they will be flipped for profit to a higher-income buyer.”
In the case of the Highland home, it was almost too far gone to save: water damage had caused gaping holes in the ceiling; the home was completely filled with junk.
“It’s not good for any neighborhood,” neighbor Cobb said. “Who knows what was going on in there.”
The home is now just about ready for sale, with a fresh landscaping thanks to volunteer labor. Whoever buys it will also receive a treat saved from its past: a stand-alone porcelain bathtub that dates back somewhere within the history of the 1905-built home.