Summerset development greeted with support

POULSBO — When picturing the usual response to a new development in town, images come to mind of unhappy citizens with ruined backyard views or lackluster enthusiasm for increased roadways near their homes.

Reverse that image.

Flip a 180, and it paints the reaction of the Vetter Homestead neighborhood in response to the Kitsap County Consolidated Housing Authority’s (KCCHA) newest Little Norway development. Unlike the usual negative backlash, these folks offered enthusiasm and support aplenty, proving neighbors truly do help neighbors after all.

The Summerset development was approved by the Poulsbo Hearing Examiner Jan. 11 after 30 Vetter residents championed its cause at a December planning commission meeting. It sits adjacent to the Vetter site in Poulsbo. Unlike its predecessor, the new neighborhood will be home to both self-helpers and regular market buyers, with a mix of 128 houses ranging up to $250,000 in value.

A majority of the houses will remain in the self-help system, meaning that like their Vetter Homestead neighbors, home buyers with pre-approved incomes will benefit from a reduced down payment in exchange for a year of sweat equity efforts. Thirty hours of construction work on their own and their neighbor’s homes are expected each week.

Homes up for normal market sale and not available through the self help program range from $200,000 to $250,000 and will be interspersed throughout the other homes. All, purchased on the market or through the KCCHA financing program, will look similar in a craftsman-cottage style. As self helpers tend to take exemplary care of their properties and develop strong community friendships, allowing market buyers into the development gives them a unique opportunity to join a place where homeowners rally together and know the names of one another’s kids, KCCHA Director of Public Affairs Sarah Lee said.

“They’re can-do people, positive people, community-minded people. ... These are the people that you’ve always wanted to live next to,” she said. “It’s a community money can’t buy.”

As the median home price, now at $350,000, continues to rise, allowing 128 local families the opportunity to purchase a valuable dwelling for less is one of the development’s biggest appeals.

Also planned for the development is a veritable kids’ paradise, with exercise stations, picnic areas, trails, basketball courts and a gazebo. More than 25 percent of the plat is alloted open space.

The first three groups of homeowners for the new development have already begun the pre-qualifying process. Lot construction will begin next month. The Housing Authority currently puts 40 families or individuals through the program each year, but as long as they can find affordable land, they’ll work to get 50 or even 60 families through the process annually. KCCHA director of single-family housing Dave Finley said the Housing Authority continues to look for new development parcels, including in the Hansville, Kingston and Port Orchard areas, to accommodate a growing waiting list.

The KCCHA offers home ownership education to all the families before they move into their new houses. Designs for the craftsman-style homes are still in planning stages, but as with previous self-help processes, owners will be able to choose from different house styles and have a palate of colors from which to decide.

And while the foundations of the new neighborhood have yet to be laid, it’s safe to say both new self-helpers and the current are looking forward to another addition to their hard-working, well-bonded community.

“How many other people will say, ‘yeah, we want that development next to ours’?” Lee asked. “These people are going to be good for Poulsbo and Poulsbo is going to be good for them.”

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