Re-evaluating Rent – by Susan, a Port Townsend landlord

I rent out an ADU in Port Townsend, although I live in the rural Southwest where the cost of living is quite inexpensive and my limited income covers my needs. I paid for the construction of the ADU, which is on my sister’s property, with a small inheritance from my father, as well as loans and help with the construction from my siblings. My sister offered me this opportunity because she wanted me to have an additional source of income beyond my small social security payment. In the beginning, while building the unit and setting the rent, I thought ADU stood for “affordable dwelling unit.” I soon learned otherwise. 

We decided to set the rental rate on the low side of the going rates and I thought to myself “well this certainly would not be affordable for me!” I agonized about the amount of rent we were charging because it seemed high to me. I would have accepted a lower rent if someone “needed” to pay less, but most of the tenants have indicated that the rent they’ve paid was one of the best deals in town. 

Now, 15 years later, the current tenant has lost his livelihood due to the pandemic, and quickly took action to pivot the nature of his work to make ends meet. He asked my sister and me if we would accept half the amount for rent for upwards of a few months. I immediately knew I would, and my sister agreed. 

This was a no-brainer for me. My simple rural life is not greatly affected by the pandemic, at least not yet. I could afford to be generous – to receive less. I am willing to make this housing unit affordable so someone who has a lower income can afford to live in Port Townsend. I am willing to sustain a rent reduction for quite awhile if need be.

The tenant quickly realized that he could pay a little more than the reduction he’d asked for. My sister, who receives part of the rent for utilities and rental maintenance, decided that she would assume most of the reduction so I would only have my part reduced a bit. With generosity on everyone’s part it is a win-win-win situation.

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