Affordable housing is becoming increasingly scarce on Bainbridge Island, and there is no housing agency to address the need. The Helpline House board of directors convenes a committee from its members to explore options for addressing the shortage but ultimately determines that the need is beyond its mission and recommends that a separate entity be created. The committee expands to include other community members, including Ed and Karen Kushner and Janet West, a columnist for the Bainbridge Review and future mayor, and begins to search for property. However, its efforts are hampered by the scarcity of units and stiff competition.
HRB completes its first development, Island Home on Knechtel Way, with donations from the community, state funding, and discounted services from an Island construction firm and architect. Island Home comprises five two-story buildings with 10 units in all. The homes, reserved for families with children, are designated as transitional housing with a two-year maximum stay and a requirement that one household member participate in financial and career education at Helpline House, located just next door. Today, like all HRB homes, they provide permanent housing.
Village Home is built. The building is mixed use. Originally, there are 11 second-story apartments owned by HRB (the maximum allowed under city code at the time) with one second-story and 8 ground-floor commercial spaces. The commercial spaces are sold to offset the costs of construction and operation of the HRB homes. In 2015, with a change in zoning, the one commercial unit on the second floor is converted to a residential unit, and in 2018 the owner decides to sell to HRB. Today, Village Home operates as a condominium association comprising HRB and the commercial owners.
Built in 1904 and once the residence of Sadie Woodman, the island’s first woman postal carrier, the home is donated it to HRB. It is trucked from Madison Avenue to its current location, a city-owned lot at the corner of Wyatt Way and Weaver Road which HRB leases for $10/year.
Independent Living is founded with funds from the city’s Housing Trust Fund, private donors, and a USDA program to subsidize home repairs. Independent Living provides health and safety home modifications and repairs to increase accessibility and preserve homes, enabling older adults and people with disabilities to continue to live in their home and community. Over 250 islanders have benefited since the program’s inception.
Work on Janet West Home, named in honor of former HRB board member and Bainbridge Island mayor (1994-1997), begins. Architect Charlie Wenzlau designed the complex to resemble Seattle’s historic bungalow courts. Its cherry tree-filled grounds continue to delight passers-by today.