Relocation of Westpark residents complete

For the first time in nearly 70 years, the lights at all 571 residential units at the Bremerton Housing Authority’s Westpark public housing complex have been turned off and every household has been successfully relocated from the development.

The last family moved out Oct. 12, two-and-a-half months ahead of schedule. The relocation of families from Westpark began in April 2008 and is a critical component of the overall-redevelopment plan for the 82-acre site.

Homes at Westpark were originally built over a nine-month period between November 1940 and July 1941 — part of a massive effort to create housing for naval shipyard workers involved in meeting the pressing need for national defense on the eve of World War II. Homes at Westpark were the first of nearly 7,000 dwellings built by BHA in the Bremerton area between 1940 and 1945. For seven decades, Westpark provided shelter for generations of Bremerton residents.

“This has been a monumental effort on the part of everyone involved. I’m grateful to the many individuals and families whose lives were disrupted by the move," said Kurt Wiest, BHA’s executive director. "I recognize the sacrifice they made to relocate and appreciate their cooperation in assisting with the community’s redevelopment objectives.”

Relocation plans were set in motion several years ago when the Westpark Sub Area Plan was approved by the Bremerton City Council and sources of funding were secured, including a $20 million dollar HOPE VI Revitalization Grant from HUD. BHA staff worked closely with local property managers and landlords to ensure that adequate replacement housing would be available to those moving from Westpark.

The Puget Rental Owners Association took a strong role in providing input on relocation plans and encouraged their members to consider renting to relocating Westpark families. BHA staff provided intense assistance in preparing individuals to move, including conducting a 20-hour course called “Ready to Rent” that taught skills that would ensure success in finding and keeping replacement housing.

Relocating households were given a Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher, which allowed them to search among privately-owned rental housing for an affordable place to live.

“At first the thought of moving after four-and-a-half years and leaving a neighborhood where I knew everyone was a little overwhelming," said Debbie Hilton, a former resident of Westpark, about her relocation experience. "With help from the different informational workshops and the relocation

coaches the transition out of Westpark has been rather smooth. My new landlord worked with me and BHA every step of the way and they are still there to help me when questions or problems come up. It really wasn't as difficult as I thought it would be.”

Hilton also serves as a BHA board member, representing program participants of the housing authority.

“We are building a new neighborhood in Bremerton, called Bay Vista, which will replace the aging structures at Westpark and transform the area into a vibrant, walkable and safe place to live,” Wiest said.

Approximately 800 new homes will be built at Bay Vista, 25 percent of which will be designated as affordable rental housing. Deconstruction of Westpark houses began in May 2009 and will continue now that all residents have vacated the property. Construction on the first phase of new housing, an 83-unit apartment building called “The Summit,” will begin in spring 2010. Residential lots to be sold to private developers are now being prepared through site grading and installation of new streets and utilities.

The chairman of BHA’s board of commissioners, John Lyall, called the completion of relocation activities an incredible achievement.

“We needed to find homes for 571 families and we were able to do so because of the combined efforts of residents and our community partners” he said. “We are grateful for the continued support of the citizens of Bremerton in helping us realize our goals for the transformation of Westpark into Bay Vista.”

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