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Hostmark Apts. finding key to compromise

POULSBO — It’s been a month since conflicts erupted at the Hostmark Apartment complex.

And members of one new group say they feel management has responded as promised. Though others feel nothing has been gained.

The mostly senior Hostmark Apartments made headlines this summer when residents raised a stink about unacceptable conditions. Some claimed they’d had issues with Allied Group, Inc. since it took over management of the community two years ago. Complaints ranged from discourteous employees to sweltering heat inside apartments.

In June, a frustrated group of residents formed a Resident Council and began making complaints to entities like the Poulsbo City Council and Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Their actions finally prompted management to hold a community meeting in August, which was attended by about 70 residents from the 120-unit complex.

Hostmark Apartments Portfolio Manager Jennifer Wood said she felt the outcome of the August meeting was mainly positive.

“I think we have responded to concerns that residents have raised and I hope that has helped to resolve any negative feelings residents had in the community,” she said.

The highly emotional meeting also prompted a handful of residents, including two who had been involved in the Resident Council, to create the Hostmark Advocacy Group. Members say they’re interested in raising morale among residents and trying to work with management to resolve issues before taking their grievances to a higher level.

“The reason I’m not part of (the Residence Council) any longer is I don’t need the conflict and the dissent,” said Doris Gerry of what motivated her to join the new group. “If I’m forced into confrontation, then I’m out of there.”

Besides hoping to resolve conflicts, including adding an anonymous suggestion box and progress reports to residents, the Advocacy Group is working toward making Hostmark into the tight-knit community it once was. There is a sunshine committee that sends birthday and get-well cards to residents, as well as welcome wagon baskets to new neighbors. Members are also working on bringing activities like music, political candidate forums, on-site church services and better amenities to the complex’s community center, which was added last fall.

Resident council members claim that Hostmark’s quality of life took a nose dive after Allied came in and repeated complaints have failed to help anything. The break-away of the Advocacy Group has caused some bitter feelings among those involved.

“There’s conflict there and it was kind of looked on as a betrayal,” Residence Council member Jim Clarke commented.

Advocacy group members feel that there are still avenues to be pursued locally. For instance, the Resident Council forwarded the temperature complaint to the housing authority of the City of Bremerton. But Hostmark has a “reasonable accommodations” request form process by which residents could have obtained shading blinds for free by explaining their circumstances.

“A lot of the (Resident Council) feel, ‘We’ve heard this before, we don’t want to hear it again,’” said Advocacy Group member Joyce Stuckey. “But they just organized. They’ve got to give it some time to work.”

“If we did this right in the first place, I’d probably have a blind up in my place right now,” added Gerry, one of the residents who were living in a 90-plus degree apartment over the summer.

Other complaints being addressed include paltry landscaping maintenance, paving needed in parking areas and a social services director that was promised but never delivered. Wood said landscaping work has been underway since August, although some projects have not been completed because the work could interfere with capital plans. Paving began last Friday and should be completed by the end of this week. And interviews have been conducted and applicants have been narrowed down to a small group of finalists for the social services director. Wood expects to have the new person in place by the end of October.

“We have made headway — great headway,” Gerry said of what has been done so far.

At the same time, the resident council continues to meet and strategize their next move.

“We still have a basic disagreement and we still have an agenda,” Clarke said.

At the August gathering, Wood was invited by one to attend the group’s next meeting. Tenant law says management may not attend meetings of a resident council without being invited. Wood was later told that she was not invited and Clarke said they have no interest in having management present at any of their meetings.

“We are receptive to any resident who has a concern and who wants to work with us,” Wood commented of the statement.

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