(This is part two in a series about overcharging at Friday Harbor Village. Read part one, “Tenants of local affordable housing units may be overcharged,” in the July 29 edition of the Journal.)
Some local tenants, living in affordable housing units, will soon receive refunds.
According to a Seattle housing agency, 11 tenants from Friday Harbor Village, off Carter Avenue, have been overcharged during the last couple months.
The housing agency, staff said tenants will be refunded and rent will be adjusted during the two weeks following a July 24 review.
Friday Harbor Village offers reduced rent to tenants, with income lower than the county’s median annual salary, under a federal tax credit program.
A review was finalized on Monday, July 24 by Washington State Housing Finance Commission staff, who confirmed the oversight. The overcharges range from $11 to $125 a month and occurred during the last two to five months.
“The owner of Friday Harbor Village has worked cooperatively with the commission,” said Valeri Pate, WSHFC director of asset management and compliance.
The Journal questioned WSHFC staff and one of the property owners about possible overcharges during the week of July 17.
At that time, two Friday Harbor Village tenants, who wish to remain anonymous, told the Journal their rent was higher than the program’s rent limitations for 2017. The tenants did not provide documentation of their rent or enrollment in the affordable housing program.
Some of the complex’s tenants don’t pay reduced rent. Tenants, who have lived in the complex prior to a 2015 foreclosure, receive reduced rent until the end of this January, while tenants living there after the foreclosure can be charged market rate.
WSHFC staff said 16 of the complex’s 22 units are still enrolled in the program. The oversight, they said, would likely have been caught during the next annual review at the end of the year, when they audit rent and incomes of program participants.
The overcharges, said WSHFC staff, primarily came from a utilities charge which was recently added to tenants’ rent. The total of rent and utilities cannot exceed rent limitations, according to the program’s rules.
One anonymous tenant was notified of a $75 utility charge in a letter from the current owner in February 2017. Previously, said this tenant, utilities were included in the price of rent.
Increases in rent have made it difficult to make payments, said this tenant, who is enrolled in the affordable housing program. The tenant’s rent has increased $150 in the last year, over the course of two property owners.
Details of income-based rentals, like this one, can be confusing, said Jennifer Armstrong, director of the San Juan Island Family Resource Center.
“Things change, and they can change behind the scenes, as far as who owns the property, and how many units there are, and which units are affordable,” she said. “It’s hard to keep up.”
Three tenants, who spoke to the Journal, did not know the complex still offered income-based rent.
The current owners were notified of the program’s rules when the property was purchased, according to WSHFC staff, and are working with WSHFC to learn more.
“While it is unfortunate that the oversight occurred, we are satisfied that it has been resolved quickly and collaboratively,” said Pate.
When Friday Harbor Village’s program eligibility expires this January, there will be five complexes that offer income-based rent to new tenants on San Juan Island.
One on Tucker Avenue, called Harbor View, is for sale and has the potential of offering market-rate prices when sold. The other four properties’ reduced-rent programs don’t expire until about 18 to 30 years from now, according to a representative from the agency that oversees the program.
According to the county’s affordable housing staff, another complex, called Island Meadows, still houses some tenants from an expired affordable housing program. Once they move out, their units’ reduced rents leave too.
San Juan Island Family Resource Center staff, said Armstrong, can offer some rental assistance to long-term islanders, who are homeless or have received eviction notices.
They cannot, however, find islanders housing. Those, looking for income-based rentals, are referred to property managers of the island’s affordable housing complexes, all of which have waiting lists.
The property manager of an affordable housing complex for seniors called Gerard Park, off Linder Street, said one person on that complex’s waiting list is a 74-year-old man, living in a tent.
Armstrong said 20 of the 144 islanders who received rental assistance from January through July 15, were homeless. Almost all of those recipients, minus about two households, received one-time assistance, set by the providers’ rules.
On an island where income-based rentals are decreasing, property values are also rising. The median San Juan County house price increased by $80,600 since 2010, according to the University of Washington’s Runstad Center for Real Estate.
“We’re really worried, and I know tenants are worried too,” said Armstrong about the decline of income-based rentals. “Many people who live in affordable housing are on fixed incomes, like disability. If the rent goes up significantly, they’re going to lose those places to live.”
San Juan Island Income-Based Rentals
The following units are the remaining income-based rentals on San Juan Island. Each unit has reduced rent, based on income, through the United States Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development.
Gerard Park: 595 Linder St., 16 units, expires 2044
Harbor View: 500 Tucker Ave., 20units, expires 2034*
Islewood: 855 Gaurd St., 18 units, expires 2040
Rosewood**: 505 Perry Pl., 18 units, expires 2035
Surina Meadows: 535 Linder St., 18 units, 2042
*Harbor View’s expiration could end sooner if its loan is paid off after its pending sale.
**Rosewood also offers reduced rent through an IRS tax credit program, which expires in 2038.