“This is really frustrating, tragic, embarrassing, the way that this has been handled,” said state Rep. Lauren Davis, who helped secure $100,000 this month for the Housing Authority of Snohomish County to move residents.
In the past few weeks, the county set aside federal dollars from the American Rescue Plan to help residents with expenses related to moving, county Councilmember Jared Mead said. Whispering Pines is slated for demolition in October. Residents must leave by the end of August.
On Thursday morning, however, housing authority Executive Director Duane Leonard lacked many details about how the financial assistance was being administered.
The agency isn’t tracking if tenants who leave have found other housing. It also didn’t appear that the housing authority had told most of the residents how it can help them financially.
Leonard said the county’s housing authority is providing financial assistance to help the remaining residents move but would not specify which expenses the agency will cover.
“Everybody’s situation is a little different,” Leonard said. “I’m not actually the one on the site, so I’m just passing through information that I’ve been given.”
Leonard said the agency’s director of asset management, Steve Kehler, is overseeing the relocation. Kehler declined to comment.
In an email, Housing Authority of Snohomish County spokesperson Pam Townsend told The Daily Herald that the agency would provide $2,000 lump-sum payments to remaining tenants that needed assistance for “anything they may need to move (Moving truck, deposit on their new place, screening, etc.).”
The agency did not respond to a question about how and when the county housing authority provided that information to residents.
“We started gathering the information early this week and funds will be available this Friday,” Townsend said in an email.
Davis, a Shoreline Democrat who helped secure the $100,000 to relocate the residents, said Thursday that the housing authority’s executive director told her only eight tenants were still living at the complex.
“This is brand new information and completely incongruent with the previous information I was told,” Davis said, when told about 50 units were still occupied.
Less than an hour later, Davis called a Herald reporter again and said she had questions about the agency’s use of funding. Davis also questioned “what I would call an arbitrary cap of funding” per household.
“It changes a lot of things,” Davis said. “… Likely the $100,000 will be inadequate.”
Davis said she would meet with the agency Monday to discuss its plan to move people.
“Just because someone has given notice, doesn’t mean they have everything they need to move successfully,” Davis said.
Mary Jane Brell Vujovic, Snohomish County Human Services Department director, said the grant will assist in moving up to 40 remaining households with moving costs.
According to the latest estimate, there are closer to 50 households left.
Katie Hayes: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @misskatiehayes.
Katie Hayes is a Report for America corps member and writes about issues that affect the working class for The Daily Herald.