I have lived in Port Townsend for fifteen years; it’s my home. I’ve seen the housing issue from a few different angles over those years, but right now I feel it because I am worried I will not be able to stay here.
When I first moved to Port Townsend I lived in one of those super-low rent situations you hear about. It was over by North Beach. It was an old farmhouse that was literally falling down in places, and the landlord didn’t want to fix it because it was so old, so she rented it out super cheap. That worked for my partner and I because, initially, we were coming and going from town. We ended up living there for seven years because it was what we could afford, even though there were problems with basically everything – roof, plumbing, electric, rat-infested ceiling insulation… My partner at the time was a handyman so he could fix some things as we needed. We made it work.
When I was looking for housing after that I ran into the issue of how most subsidized affordable housing developments have such specific income requirements that those places can be challenging to access, or stay in. Now, I have lived in low-income housing in Port Townsend for six years. When I first moved in I had my granddaughter living with me, and it was a very affordable place to live. In the past few years we’ve had two new managers, and with each new manager my rent has been immediately raised. Also in the past few years I have retired and begun living on my social security income only. Because I am a widow, I make just above the amount allowable to qualify for certain social services, like food stamps and full coverage medicare, but I do not have enough to truly afford those services on my own. This is partially because I’ve suddenly found I’m paying nearly half my income to cover my rent.
I feel like I’m caught between a rock and a hard place. I know I have some of the least expensive rent in town, yet it is still too much for my social security. Also, it is not an ideal place for me to continue living. The carpets in my apartment are probably twenty years old, and even though I’ve paid to have them steam cleaned, they simply need to be replaced. I’ve had a lot of lung problems since I’ve lived here, probably due to the carpets and mold (when I leave I notice how much better I feel). My living situation is not ideal for these, and other, mental and physical health reasons and I’d like to find something else in Port Townsend but I’m feeling hopeless about being able to find another rental I can afford if I leave low-income housing. I’m grateful for what I do have, but I am compromising my health to be here, and ultimately I’m afraid I won’t be able to stay in Port Townsend.
This story was told by someone who preferred to remain anonymous.