April 30, 2006
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.