I moved to Jefferson County in May of 2017 when I accepted the position of Executive Director at the Jefferson Community Foundation. Via Craigslist, I found a cute little house in Port Townsend to rent. To my surprise, the rent was the same amount I had been paying in Seattle. This posed a challenge as I was going to be earning significantly less than I had previously been making but there were really no other rental options and I could not afford to buy, so I moved in.
It became clear relatively quickly that the house was infested with rats and had plumbing problems. The landlord refused to address any of these issues, and in all reality, he had no incentive to; since there are so few rentals in Jefferson County, he knew that he could easily find another renter if I left. (I later confirmed that over 20 people have cycled through this house in recent years for the very same reasons.) Eventually, he decided he was going to sell the house and I had to find another option…and that is when my new community network kicked into action. The wonderful people I had met here understood the housing crises and knew that if I lost my rental, it would be almost impossible for me to find another place to rent. They knew it that if I was to stay here for the long term – which I so wanted to do – I had to own my own home. Yet at the time, this seemed impossible to me from a financial perspective. That did not stop what I now call my “Tornado of Angels.”
A friend who is a member of Local 20/20 started spreading the word. Next thing I knew, someone came to me – someone I had never met – and said, in essence, “I hear you are doing good work in our community and that you might have to leave so I want to sell you my house at below-market rate.” We talked through my financial situation and she structured an owner-financed contract she knew I would be able to manage on my salary. Then, when I went to give her the 10% down payment, she told me to keep $10,000 of it to invest in the house, knowing that it was an older home and things would need to be addressed. Her amazing commitment to our community and its sustainability allowed me to become a homeowner for the first time on May 13th.
Upon inking the final signature on the contract at closing, I turned to her and said: “There are not many moments in one’s life where you can witness someone’s life being changed in an instant. This is one of them. Thank you for making it possible for me to plant roots and build a life here.” I have since heard that I am not the first person she has done this for and that she is not the only local investor to do this kind of behind-the-scenes work to make affordable housing available for working people here. While I was lucky enough to meet her, I too often hear of others who have to leave this community because they cannot find an affordable place to live. I hope that by sharing this story, more and more people who have the means to buy and sell houses will become part of the Tornado of Angels.
And to my Angels: Thank you.
-Siobhan Canty, Jefferson Community Foundation CEO