Habitat premiers new development in Port Townsend

Posted 5/10/23

Habitat for Humanity of East Jefferson County opened the doors Saturday for people to see its most recent housing development in Port Townsend.

The group of six houses are nearing completion, …

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Habitat premiers new development in Port Townsend


Habitat for Humanity of East Jefferson County opened the doors Saturday for people to see its most recent housing development in Port Townsend.

The group of six houses are nearing completion, with only finishing work left to complete in five of the units.

One house had been fully finished and furnished with items from the Habitat for Humanity store, the donated items staged by store manager Cheryl Petrick.

The homes are all built on the same footprint, in either two-bedroom or three-bedroom arrangements. The two-bedroom homes include a covered patio. All units include an exterior storage closet.

While the units are built in twos, what looks like a shared wall between them is structurally built as two walls with insulation between them. This provides soundproofing between the homes.

The right to purchase a Habitat home is earned through sweat equity, which can be completed in about a year of weekend effort, according to Jamie Maciejewski, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of East Jefferson County.

“It’s not a giveaway,” emphasized Maciejewski. Homeowners contribute volunteer hours and meet financing requirements to qualify for a mortgage.

Permanently affordable

All of the homes in this development and going forward are designated permanently affordable.

The design includes age-in-place considerations such as lever handles for doors and faucets, as opposed to knobs that need to be gripped, and no-step entryways, plus hallways and bathrooms that can accommodate wheelchairs. While the bathrooms in this development are built with full tubs, there is a contingency design for a shower-only option.

Maintenance of the access street and alley that were constructed for this project will be the responsibility of the city of Port Townsend, while maintenance of the homes themselves, and any landscaping choices, will be the responsibility of the individual homeowners. Owners will also pay into a repair fund, $50 per month, which accumulates to help take care of the larger repair needs in the future, such as roofs and siding. That fund stays with the house when someone sells.

While the homeowner buys the house itself, the land it sits on remains the property of Habitat for Humanity, through an LLC that they own, and part of each mortgage payment goes toward leasing the land.

Because the purchase price of the homes is based on applicant’s household income, the mortgages often don’t cover the full cost of construction.

Typically the purchase price will be about 60 percent of the cost, according to Maciejewski. The difference is made up through financial contributions from various sources, and also, importantly, donations of time and expertise on the part of architects, electricians, plumbers, and others. Some of the construction materials are purchased at a steep discount from local merchants such as Carl’s Building Supply of Port Hadlock.

“We couldn’t do this without our partner organizations,” said Maciejewski. “It really is the community coming together; people who believe that everyone deserves a decent place to live.”

Qualifying for a home

The application process begins with small group orientations via Zoom. The orientation includes information about financing, house sizes and options, and program timeframes. It also includes the opportunity to ask questions about the program.

Links to register for orientation are online at habitatejc.org/homes.

For those who cannot attend an orientation online or by phone, contact Habitat at 360-379-2827 or info@habitatejc.org.

Orientations about home ownership will be conducted twice weekly through May 22. After that, orientations will be available twice monthly through the end of the year.

The three criteria for building a house with Habitat are need, ability to repay a mortgage and willingness to partner. Habitat partners with people who need a decent and affordable place to live. Those who live in “substandard” housing and cannot solve their housing issues on their own may qualify. Substandard can mean unsafe or unhealthy, lacking utilities, too costly, overcrowded or temporary.

Partner families and individuals buy a house from Habitat that they helped build, and take on a low-cost mortgage not exceeding 30 percent of their income. Homeowners invest 250 to 400 hours of sweat equity labor in building their own house, the total amount required depending on the number of adults in the family. In addition, monthly classes prepare families for the responsibilities of homeownership.

Habitat for Humanity of East Jefferson County was founded in 1998 and has to date built and renovated more than 100 affordable homes. Habitat’s vision is a world where everyone has a decent place to live — and works toward its vision by building strength, stability and self-reliance in partnership with families in need of decent and affordable housing.

The organization says it is expanding their efforts to guarantee underserved persons are represented. The organization is doubling its build efforts from a maximum of five in any single year prior to 2023. Habitat is now targeting 10 to
11 homes for the current year, and 10 per year subsequently.


Habitat is also increasing its investment in the Critical Home Repair program to 10 homes and more than $100,000 annually. The group says the program has made a significant impact in south county where the infrastructure is lacking.

By 2025, the nonprofit plans to break ground on Mason Street, a property with the potential for 120 more affordable homes.

Recognizing that there is a spectrum of housing options required to solve the housing crisis, Habitat will be partnering with other organizations to develop rental units on the Mason Street property, and has expanded its model to include multi-family residences. Officials said this allows for maximizing land use as the quantity of land available continues to dwindle.

Permanent affordability is also a key element of Habitat’s developing model that pays it forward – keeping housing affordable for future generations by controlling how much it appreciates.

Habitat says that in order to accomplish these expanded goals they need people. Volunteerism remains at their core, and it needs people with a wide variety of talents to help it deliver on its expanded mission.

In addition to volunteers, the organization depends heavily on material donations; donors contribute 70 percent of its yearly funding.