Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Housing: Island's 'Guest Workers' Find Few Places to Live

April 30, 2006

Bainbridge Island

Each day, Jason Sovick drives from his Manette home in Bremerton to Bainbridge High School to teach math. In his ninth year of teaching, the 33-year-old gets a daily math lesson of his own.

He earns $48,000 a year — good, but not good enough to buy on Bainbridge.
"I’ve never not lived in a community that I’ve taught in," said the former Bremerton High School teacher.

Will Sapp, 34, is a nine-year Bainbridge police veteran who recently bought a home in Seabeck with a view and creek. It would have been a mobile had he and his fiancée settled on Bainbridge, he said. He earns between $55,000 and $60,000.

Sovick and Sapp are among the large and growing ranks of island "guest workers" — middle-income professionals who toil at making this rarefied community all it is, but who can’t afford to live here themselves.

With the median cost of a home on the island now at $500,000 — far more than in any other part of Kitsap County — and with almost no middle-income affordable housing available, the island finds itself losing the diversity of people it’s tried so hard to keep. Perhaps more than any other West Sound community, Bainbridge is missing its teachers, city workers, police and fire personnel and service workers.

"Very clearly it’s getting worse, and I think we’re at a critical juncture," said Dwight Sutton, a former Bainbridge mayor. "Once we’ve lost folks in that economic level, then you have lost a major part of what constitutes your community."

More than half the island’s teachers and city workers don’t live here. And 64 percent of the island’s police force calls somewhere else home, according to their employers.
Incomes have stayed flat as island housing prices have nearly doubled between 1998 and now. Suddenly, the people in the middle who earn too much for housing subsidies but too little to buy a home on their own are in crisis.

One life change — divorce, job loss or illness — tips the scales. They leave, if they were ever here to begin with.

"They had to sell their life here," said Bill Reddy, director of Housing Resources Board of Bainbridge Island.

It’s arguable that many don’t see a problem. Residents have seen their homes appreciate handsomely. They bought smart years ago and paid the price of inconvenience — living on an island.

Click here to read the article in its entirety.


Eleua said...

I find it interesting that the article states:

Incomes have stayed flat as island housing prices have nearly doubled between 1998 and now.

This, my fellow bloggers, is what is normally called "unsustainable," or a "bubble."

If incomes have remained flat ($71K/household/year) then why would homes not drift back to where they were when the incomes started to stagnate? They will, and then some. Remember, 1998 was a very fat year for Bainbridge Island and the Puget Sound in general. If we get a recession, it is curtains for the BI market.

The easiest way to get your "guest workers" back to the island, is to wait for market forces to pave the way for them.

If school teachers, cops, firefighters, paramedics, etc. are saving money, they should do just fine when BI real estate sells for less than 30 cents on the dollar

Ameriquest just shut down 26 PNW offices last night. The easy money propping up this market is almost over.

If this is not proof-positive that X-Cal equity is ruining Bainbridge, I don't know what is.

Anonymous said...

Hand-wringing aside, I don't believe that there is much of a desire to have the "guest workers" living on the island. They, after all, represent the lower-middle class that elitist island snobs have gone to great lengths to chase away. School teachers may tend to subscribe to the loony-Left agenda, but firefighters, paramedics, and especially cops tend not to do so.

I'm surprised to hear that incomes are only $71K/household/year since my income is quite a bit higher than that and I am definitely one of the riff-raff that the island snobs want to get rid of. Amazing that their towering statues of themselves have such clay feet.

So that must mean that many of the snobs are wannabees, in debt up to their eyeballs. That, along with loony-Leftism (can't give Bush credit for anything after all) may explain why they're complaining about how "bad" the economy is even though it's been roaring since 2003.

I'd like to see them get their comeuppance too, but unlike you I'm not holding my breath.

Eleua said...

Yeah, I had a hard time with that $71K income, but it is right there in the Y2K census. BI ranks 24/522 statistical areas of Washington state.

My guess as to all the bling you see on the island has everything to do with the housing ATM (HELOC). When you get $71K/yr from the daily grind, and another $80K from the HELOC, that's $151K/yr., which ain't bad.

Unfortunately, $80K must be paid back, with interest, and the house is held as collateral. When the Silverdale Best Buy is being floated by all the HELOC money, and when you are pawning the house to buy a plasma TV, you can see how this is going to end in tears.

We sold, and now rent. My new neighbors think I am insane, and financially irresponsible, but I always point out that my landlord (X-Cal equity refugee) subsidises my housing costs by $2500/mo, and that's like $30K/yr in tax-free money. That more than compensates for any lack of Schedule A write off.

It will be sad to see my neighbors evicted by the KCS. They live paycheck to paycheck, work 2 jobs, daycare, and have no life (other than droning on and on about the genius of owning their house).

Humble pie, in the form of a declining house value, will do a lot of good for Bainbridge. Success breeds arrogance, and failure/uncertainty breeds humility.

I've been there.

The lower tier professionals will be back.

Anonymous said...


I would be delighted to see those who (as you so aptly put it) "live paycheck to paycheck, work 2 jobs, daycare, and have no life" get the boot courtesy of KCS. It'd serve them right. That, and the delayed realization that their kids grew up neither knowing, nor caring, about their parents, would be just karma.

You're wrong about one thing though. They don't just prattle on about "the genius of owning their house." You forgot about the other prattle topics: "the wonderful sense of community", "how tolerant we are" (hah!), and the pretense of knowing something about life abroad.

Eleua said...

The Bainbridge zeitgeist is very fatiguing. The stereotypical BI resident is a bit full of themselves, but some normal families do live here (albeit the exception).

Anonymous said...


I would be delighted to see those who (as you so aptly put it) "live paycheck to paycheck, work 2 jobs, daycare, and have no life" get the boot courtesy of KCS. It'd serve them right.

Not that I care, but did anyone ever tell you you're a fucking ghoul?

Anonymous said...

I'm a rich snob who owns a house on bainbridge island and the reason I bought up here is because I am elitist. I really wish they would take down the bridge and keep all the white trash on the penninsula where they belong.

Thank god we live in a free market economy where the best people can become rich and enjoy the rewards of their talent.

Eleua said...

ANON 1558,

I totally agree. The AP bridge needs to be demolished. It does bring us closer to BI and Seattle, but it also brings BI and Seattle closer to us.

What needs to happen is for a bridge to connect Southern BI with Manette. I would also favor any child in Kitsap County to be able to attend any school in the county. I would only favor the latter if the AP bridge was demolished and the BI-Manette bridge built to replace it.

Decomissioning the Bremerton-SEA ferry would also help. Let everyone in Kitsap catch the BI ferry.

Thanks for letting the white trash peek behind the curtain. May we all aspire to be as enlightened as our BI nobles. You are always so quick to let us know just how wonderful you all are.