Trust creates affordable housing

Bill Massey and his wife, Kathy, welcome their guests to one of the newest homes from Saratoga Community Housing.  SCH recently finished four homes in Oak Harbor.  - Katie McVicker/Whidbey News-Times
Bill Massey and his wife, Kathy, welcome their guests to one of the newest homes from Saratoga Community Housing. SCH recently finished four homes in Oak Harbor.
— image credit: Katie McVicker/Whidbey News-Times

Fourteen-year-old Megan Kanterman examined her palms and proudly showed off a few sore spots. She spent hours shoveling dirt to help get the yard ready at her new house which she, her younger sister, Dani, and their mom, Korena, will be able to move into later this month thanks to Saratoga Community Housing.

Saratoga Community Housing, or SCH, is a nonprofit community land trust that helps low-income families find homes. Since its founding in 2007, SCH has helped 14 families become homeowners, and they’re currently working with Habitat for Humanity to build eight more on Whidbey.

By owning the land, SCH is able to greatly reduce housing prices. Members explain their process using an example of a house appraised at $225,000. If SCH were to buy that house, or build it with a partner like Habitat for Humanity, they would keep ownership of the actual land, which would work out to be a value of about $75,000. That in turn would reduce the price of that house for the potential homeowners to about $150,000 and reduce their mortgage cost by 42 percent.

SCH board member Steve Gulliford said the idea for SCH came in 2006 from a low-income housing workshop he attended.

“I left that meeting and over the next couple of days I thought, ya know what? If we want to have a community land trust, we’ve got to start it,” he said.

He called Bill Massey, the owner of Island Construction Inc., who was also interested in creating low-income housing, and a few months later SCH was up and running.

“Bill told me that many, many times it’s about the land,” Gulliford said. “It’s amazing what’s happened in four years.”

On Thursday, SCH members hosted an open house at one of their newest homes, Megan’s home, in Oak Harbor.

SCH not only promotes affordable housing, SCH makes it happen, Massey said.

Massey thanked all of SCH’s supporters and said he was especially impressed with all of the hardworking homeowners that have come to SCH.

“We’re humbled by all of the sweat and labor these homeowners put in,” he said, adding that many homeowners have turned around and volunteered with SCH themselves.

Pam Burley grew up in Coupeville and currently works at the Navy Exchange. She recently moved into a SCH home next door to the Kanterman’s.

“We’ve got kids,” Burley said. “Home ownership is really important.”

Toward the end of the event, SCH toasted to the next 40 years of affordable housing projects and asked community members for their much-needed support.

Executive Director Sandra Stipe said, “These are real homes, these are real people and this is a fantastic program.”

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