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Mayor backs housing authority merger

Mayor Cary Bozeman drew from his experience growing up in low-income housing to drive home the need for “respectable and affordable” low-income housing in Bremerton.

“I’m somewhat emotional about the subject,” he said during his presentation to the Bremerton City Council Monday, June 27.

In order to accomplish this long-standing goal he recommended the Council approve the merger of the 65-year-old Bremerton Housing Authority (BHA) and the Kitsap County Consolidated Housing Authority (KCCHA) to form a regional housing authority.

The hourlong study session at the City Council chambers at the Norm Dicks Government Center was split between the Mayor’s recommendation and a presentation from David Gitch, who revealed findings by the Blue Ribbon Committee — a Mayor-appointed committee to study the issue. The Council took no action on the matter, but will discuss the issue at future meetings said Daren Nygren, Council president.

At the center of the recommendation is the redevelopment of Westpark, which was originally built in 1941. Its 550 units and purpose have become outdated, Bozeman said.

“Our citizens who live in low-income housing do not have to reside in obsolete housing,” Bozeman said.

Although plans are in the works to redevelop Westpark, the project is not moving forward at a pace it should be.

“It’s been four years and not a spade of dirt has been turned,” he said.

He outlined his three major housing goals for the city:

• To grow home ownership from 40 percent to 50 percent.

• To build new, affordable housing in the designated city centers to attract professionals, young families and seniors.

• To redevelop Westpark to provide respectable housing options.

In order to accomplish these goals Bozeman plans to have a city housing summit, increase the number of ownership programs for low-income residents and have a “pilot neighborhood” to show “how these ideas can change a community one street at a time.”

Regardless of the decision on the merger, Bozeman wants to broaden BHA’s scope from managing to become a resource of “affordable and respectable low-income housing in Bremerton.”

The Blue Ribbon Committee spent about 35 hours to develop their findings that lean toward the two entities working together but didn’t give a definitive answer to whether the two should merge.

The findings were intended to guide the Council in its decision, Gitch said.

“There is something less than trust between the two, they’re clearly two separate units,” said Gitch, chairman for the Blue Ribbon Committee. He reviewed the committee’s findings with the Council.

Supporters say merging the two housing authorities would create a regional approach to providing

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