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"In 1965, my husband said we were moving to San Juan, and I burst into tears. I didn’t want to move to Puerto Rico."

That’s Pat Rishel, remembering the start of her life on San Juan Island; which only now, 47 years later, has led to ownership of her first island home, in the Salal neighborhood on Carter Ave. in Friday Harbor.

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture - Rural Development awarded Homes for Islanders (HFI), a non-profit organization, another two-year grant to provide technical assistance for constructing 21 self-help homes in Friday Harbor.

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Homes for Islanders completed purchase of eight developed lots just off Grover Street and Corliss Court in Friday Harbor. Justin Roche, executive director of HFI said the lots are of similar size to the non-profit's current development off Lampard Road in Friday Harbor (approximately 1/4 acre per lot).

These lots are for very low to low income individuals and families on San Juan Island. Applicants who qualify for the loans will own the land without any resale restriction.

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Story and photos Sharon Kivisto

posted 05/11/2010
Toolboxes closed, ladders folded, paint dry; the only hurdle remaining between eight families and their new homes last Wednesday was the key ceremony.

Justin Roche Executive Director of Homes for Islanders, a sweat equity program, gave an overview of the 14-month-construction period. "In various groups it's typical we have at least a couple of carpenters in the families and extended families. There were no carpenters in the Woodland families. We got off to a bit of a slow start. They learned the ropes. They really kicked it into high gear. After that slow start, they finished really strong.

"Woodland Estates had the highest contribution of parents of any group. This was a little bit younger group. Parents were a subset of a much larger community effort of volunteers. They Put in the most hours of any community than ever before. This says something about this community. If you add up the hours - 12,000 hours came from homeowners; 7,700 hours from community. That's nearly 1,000 hours per house from parents and volunteers."

"This is not a giveaway, this is an opportunity. These families took advantage of the opportunity,"said Mario Villanueva State Director of Rural Development for USDA. "USDA is excited to be a part of what you all accomplished. You did all the work." He joked he was getting to do the fun part,"You know the five phases of construction. First phase of a project is enthusiasm, second phase is panic, third phase is search for the guilty, fourth phase is punishment of the innocent, fifth phase is praise and honors for the non-participants."

"You had to learn teamwork,"said Art Seavey, technical assistance specialist for Rural Community Assistant Corporation which is a consulting firm for the USDA. "You were successful, you learned a lot of stuff, some of that stuff has nothing to do with construction. Conflict management, group decision-making, setting a goal and achieving it. All kind of skills, interviewers for jobs would ask abour 'have you done anything that does this'. You have built a community not just a home. And you are part of a community. I am challenging you: keep building on that community. Make that community larger and larger, incorporate the whole island. I hope I can come back and see them again when there are yards and kids running around."

Carolyn Carroll spoke on behalf of the homeowners. She thanked the North Beach homeowners for helping the Woodland Estates people with framing so they could meet the first-time homeowner's tax break. North Beach is the next Home For Islanders project on Orcas. Six families are building homes in the northern section of Eastsound.

Next she awarded Homes for Islanders Construction Manager Larry Coddington the Closed Mouth Award "for being the only person on the whole project who kept his mouth shut." She said, "He didn't gossip or say anything bad about anybody."

Accepting the certificate Coddington said, "It's been a pleasure, you've not been given a gift. but you've earned a gift. It's going to give you a leg up on the rest of your life. At some point in the future I hope you'll say, 'My life is good, I think I'll dive in and help somebody else too'."

Carroll said, "This is the Super Finger Award. She (Rebecca Evans) must have caulked 200 miles of siding and trim. We want to appreciate her for doing all of the caulking."

Homeowner Chad Kimple also spoke on behalf of the homeowners, he said, "We are grateful for this program, for the chance to afford. We now can afford our own little American dream. Coming from a family that has lived on Orcas since the late 1800s, believe it or not this program has given me what I have dreamed for, to own land and build a house. I couldn't have afforded a home conventionally as the payments would have been my monthly salary. It's difficult when the working class cannot afford to buy a home."

"I'd be lying if I said this was a cakewalk. It is an experience no one of us will ever forget or should," Kimple said. "It is not every day you get to know your neighbors by swinging a hammer next to them every day for 14 months."

Carroll and Kimple did their best to thank all the sub-contractors, volunteers, the Homes for Islanders staff, USDA, Islanders Bank and others. Carroll noted there were more than 180 volunteers.

Next up, the handing over of the keys. Applause followed each presentation.

The luncheon ended with a slide show put together by homeowner Kevin DeHart. The soundtrack - Woody Guthrie's If I had a Hammer.

Carolyn Carrol and Chad Kimple thank the Mount Vernon Lowe's representative for all the company's help.

Mario Villanueva State Director of Rural Development for USDA

Art Seavey, technical assistance specialist for Rural Community Assistant Corporation

Homes for Islanders Construction Manager Larry Coddington was awarded the Closed Mouth Award.

Carolyn Carroll's graph illustrated the steps involved in the construction of the homes.

Rebecca Evans probably doesn't have a fingerprint left.

Homes for Islanders Executive Director Justin Roche hands Dennis DeHart the keys to the DeHart home.

  • ACL Plumbing
    - John Clark

  • Island Electric
    –Lewis Dickinson

  • VanderYacht Propane

    – Craig VanderYacht

  • Orcas Drywall
    – Al Roitsch

  • Orcas Construction Co
    – Bart Curtis

  • Scott Johnson Floor Coverings

  • Master Insulation & Services
    – Sergio Lozano

  • Lowe's, Mt Vernon

  • Island Hardware & Supply

Homeowners

  • Dustin and Samantha Coy

  • Dennis and Jessica DeHart

  • Jason and Wendy Wooding

  • Cara Russell

  • Chad Kimple

  • Jonathan Russell

  • Carolyn Carroll

  • Rebecca Evans

Building a future, a community and affordable homes

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Story and photos Sharon Kivisto

The Kimple's at their new home.

Samantha Coy was ready to move into the family's new home with her husband, Justin, and two daughters, Natalie and Adrienne, after receiving the keys.

Carolyn Carroll's yellow house was bright and light inside too.

Woodlawn Estates is located on Lydia Lane near the fire station at Rosario.

Sister and brother, Cara and Jonathan Russell, each have their own homes at Woodland Estates. Cara's is customized with a more elaborate fireplace.

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The Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties awarded a Certificate of Merit to San Juan Community Home Trust Sun Rise neighborhood. The development is certified with a rating of 3-Stars in the Built Green program for using quality construction and environmentally friendly methods and materials.

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john-campbellSpokane, Wash. -  PRESS RELEASE: The Washington State Housing Finance Commission presented a 2011 Friend of Housing Award to retired Orcas Island architect John Campbell at the Davenport Hotel in Spokane during the annual Housing Washington conference last week .

“John Campbell has been a force for affordable housing in San Juan County for decades,” said Washington State Housing Finance Commission Executive Director Kim Herman. “John has hardly retired! As a volunteer, he has never ceased creating home designs and working with great imagination to provide housing for many need people in his community.”

Campbell structured his professional volunteerism by founding Homes For Islanders, a nonprofit affordable housing development firm in San Juan County. The firm uses the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development 523 program to develop “sweat equity” homes that allow purchasers to work into homeownership. He volunteered his architectural skills through the firm, designing all of the homes.

The result is that six neighborhoods now provide 49 homes for working families who otherwise could not afford housing in Washington’s least affordable county. Twenty-one additional homes will be completed soon.

Campbell serves on the San Juan County Housing Bank Commission, formerly the Housing Advisory Board, which is a volunteer advisory board to the County Council on affordable housing issues, programs, and policies. Funding was obtained to conduct an affordable housing planning effort resulting in an affordable housing action plan for San Juan County.

Campbell’s accomplishments do not end here.

In 1998, he wrote a grant application to the state’s Housing Trust Fund to establish a down payment assistance loan fund for low-income, first time homebuyers in the county. The application was rejected since Campbell was not a county employee, but a volunteer. The application was reformatted and submitted by John Manning, director of the county Health Department, who commented that John Campbell did most of the hard work and research for the $474,000 grant awarded in 1999. An additional Housing Trust Fund grant was awarded in 2002 totaling $250,000. Since inception, this program has helped over 45 low-income people purchase homes.

Knowing there was also a need for affordable rental housing, Campbell went to HUD to request Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers for county residents. HUD awarded those vouchers and today this program provides twenty low-income disabled residents with long-term, stable housing subsidies.

In 2008, Campbell prompted the county to use some of its 2163 Homeless funds to provide rental subsidies for extremely low-income seniors that were at great risk of homelessness. Through his leadership the Housing Bank Commission developed the San Juan County Senior Rent Subsidy, which currently provides twelve very low-income seniors with stable rental subsidies. This program was expanded to include eight disabled persons.

In 2010, dissatisfied with the County’s response to low-income housing issues, Campbell petitioned the Growth Management Hearings Board to force the county to take action. While this Petition was unsuccessful, the advocacy community supporting it was strengthened through the effort.

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