News

Ready to rent...

By CHARLES MELTON

Editor

As the redevelopment of Westpark continues, the landscape will change drastically and current residents will have to find other places to live for at least an interim period of time.

The idea of leaving the comfort zone of the Bremerton Housing Authority’s public housing project may seem scary to some, but the BHA is doing its part to prepare residents to do just that through its Ready to Rent program.

“At our last property owner conference in January, we introduced the Ready to Rent program to the audience,” BHA executive director Kurt Wiest said. “Landlords were very supportive and excited at the idea that they could potentially have a Ready to Rent graduate as a renter. They see the value in having access to a potential pool of program graduates who have been educated on the elements of being a responsible renter.”

During the classes, students learn to prioritize their housing needs, such as location, access to transportation and size of dwelling, compare housing options and learn skills needed to effectively interview landlords, Wiest said.

“Ready to Rent is a program that equips residents with the tools needed to be successful, whether as a Section 8 participate, a market-rate renter, or as a future home owner,” he said.

The curriculum is delivered by BHA’s Relocation Team at the Westpark Community Center, and students attending the class get to know their relocation team and the other programs and groups available through the Community Center, he said.

“The curriculum is customized around a personal contract that addresses credit repair, budgeting and basic housekeeping skills,” he said. “Students are required to attend over 20 hours of training over a five-week period, with approximately three to five hours of homework per week.”

Attendance is crucial as students are only allowed to miss one class and make up the class with the instructor, and tardies to class are not permitted, he said.

“Attending this class and working on a personal contract will help residents learn new skills and reframe moving out of Westpark as a positive life change,” he said.

The relocation Team determined early that it was vital to personally invite residents to participant in this class, he said.

“We have worked hard to create a learning environment that is supportive, fun and comfortable,” he said. “Included in this class are games, guest speakers, healthy refreshments and homework assistance.”

The relocation team has developed a web-based relocation station with comprehensive resources available regarding school districts, community profiles, cost of living and Section 8 Housing options, he said.

The initial success of the program has already garnered both regional and statewide attention, he said.

“We are proud to report that BHA Relocation staff was recently asked to share Best Practices with Pierce County Housing Authority staff,” he said. “As a follow-up, Ron Oldham, the director of Pacific Northwest Regional Council of the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials (PNRC-NAHRO) invited our coaches to speak at their annual conference in Spokane in April.”

The invitation came after hearing that BHA was doing some exciting work with the Ready to Rent curriculum.

After BHA’s visit to Tacoma, Oldham made the following comments about the program: “Your three relocation coaches visited our Ready to Rent presentation in Tacoma on Monday and did a wonderful job of describing BHA’s program. You have three very valuable employees in Amber, Deborah, and Elaine. BHA is doing more than Pacific Northwest Regional Council (PNRC) ever hoped for when we got involved in R2R! The program details were great but the enthusiasm that those three young women communicated was fantastic! PNRC hopes to use their experiences again soon.”

Westpark residents and rental property owners are encouraged to take active roles in the program.

Westpark residents can contact the relocation team directly through the Westpark Community Center. Property owners are encouraged to call Maria Klemesrud, BHA relocation manager, at (360) 782-5431 if they are interested in making their rental property available to a Ready to Rent graduate. Klemesrud can also be reached via e-mail at mklemesrud@bremertonhousing.org.

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