The Difficulty of Finding Stability – a local renter’s story

I have been a Port Townsend resident for 27 out of my 30 years. I have been employed in the marine trades by the same business for 9 years. My oldest son has both attended Chimacum and Port Townsend public schools. In the last decade of renting locally I have had both positive and negative experiences.

When I became a newly single mom, I was living with my mother in order to save. This ended up not being a safe situation for my son (due to another person living in the house), so in 2012-2013 I rented a very nice above-garage apartment that I found on Craigslist through a local property management company. With a growing son, one bedroom only worked for so long. I moved back in with my mother to save and find something bigger (the unsafe person had moved out by then.)

In 2014-2015 I rented a house from my coworker/supervisor. There were shotgun bbs in the couch and holes in the wall. It was uncomfortable to be paying rent to the person who wrote my paychecks. When my six-month rental agreement was up, I had to move back in with my mom to avoid a 100% increase in rent.

From 2015 to 2018 I took over one of my friend’s rental leases in Port Hadlock. It was a great house with a yard. We signed a year lease. Soon after we moved in, the landlord began coming in without notice. One time the landlord came in and bleached the bath tub and then used my brand-new towels to dry it, which ruined them. This should have been an indicator. For the next few years I dealt with similar issues, including a rent increase that was written on paper, with words misspelled and crossed out, on the basis that we weren’t taking care of the yard to her standard. She could have simply increased it based on the local rate increases. For the next two years, my rent was month to month as she ignored my requests to sign an agreement. With two children this was extremely stressful.

During these two years, I put offers on at least four houses, but I was outbid every time.

Due to some life changes I went back to living with my mother, with my two boys. She had a full house and there weren’t places for all of us to sleep.

In November 2018 I called a local property manager I have known since high school. She had a listing that was coming up and wasn’t on the website yet, which I managed to secure. I moved into a sweet 1950’s house and it was a great new beginning. Aside from electrical and plumbing issues, all was going well. Then COVID-19 hit.

This past June I was notified that the homeowner was selling the house. Amidst the pandemic, I had to keep my house tidy for showings, while balancing full time work, online classes, and three kids. Many of the showings were after 5 pm and I had to delay coming home after work. The house sold quickly. My lease ends on November 30th, 2020 and so far I have not been able to secure housing for me and my family. 

For the fifth time in adulthood, I am leaning on my mother for help. I am so grateful she has been able to help and I know I’m luckier than most.

I will be moving my family into an off-grid yurt next to an RV that will be used for a kitchen/bathroom. While this is stressful and not ideal, I am trying to stay positive that maybe this will be a segway into homeownership at last. I know my story is not unique and many have faced similar issues. I was at the hardware store recently and the checker asked me about my project. I shared that I was setting up a yurt. She informed me she was turning a garden shed into a living space. I have gone back since and learned that she abandoned that project and was lucky to find an old travel trailer to fix up.

I hear stories every day of locals who are being pushed out of rentals because they are being sold, and the general struggle to find housing. As a younger person in the community, I want to share my story and get involved.