Habitat taking over Saratoga Community Housing

After witnessing Saratoga Community Housing’s declining effectiveness, Habitat for Humanity of Island County is taking over the agency.

“They just didn’t have the staff to get the paperwork done on time and adequately so it wasn’t running (smoothly),” said Habitat board President Gary Wray.

Saratoga Community Housing is a nonprofit community land trust, which means it acquires land to provide housing for low-income individuals or families. However, a lack of funding and staffing led to diminished land upkeep and paperwork not being completed on time or, in some cases, at all, Wray said.

Habitat often partnered with the land trust on affordable housing projects. Wray said the issues came to a head when Saratoga was supposed to apply for $90,000 from the county for a plot of land in Langley on which Habitat planned to build affordable housing units, but the funding didn’t get secured.

“They just stopped communicating with me,” said Catherine Reid, Island County housing program coordinator.

Reid said she was trying to work with the organization to secure funding through the county’s affordable housing fund. She said there were a number of documents required before an allocation could be made and she never received any of them.

“They didn’t have a full-time staff person to get the work done,” said Wray.

After this, Habitat for Humanity and SCH had a joint board meeting in which Wray voiced his concerns about the community land trust. The two organizations mutually agreed for Habitat to absorb all of Saratoga’s assets and for the land trust to be dissolved.

Habitat for Humanity will continue to provide the same services to people who own homes on land trust’s property.

The organization will continue the model that allows households whose income is at or below 80 percent of area median income to purchase a home without having to pay for the land it’s on, which significantly lowers the cost of the mortgage.

“Things were just falling through the cracks,” said Wray. “Now things should run a lot smoother for our homeowners.”

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