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Move out day soon for low-income Pilchuck Ridge renters

SNOHOMISH — Moving day is coming for many Pilchuck Ridge apartment dwellers.
The 28-unit affordable housing complex sold in November to Seattle-based Pilchuck Ridge Partners and the new owners are raising the rents to market rates. It is located at Sixth Street and Pine Avenue.
There is limited assistance for displaced tenants and the new owners are acting to ease the transition, but renters face significant challenges.
The USDA Rural Housing Services branch, which administered the affordable housing program, is issuing vouchers to tenants to help bridge the gap between their current rent and rents for comparable local units.
But the numbers don’t add up to tenant Amy Emmer.
She has been paying $700 a month at Pilchuck Ridge. A USDA letter offered her an additional $273 per month rent voucher, good for 12 months. The USDA market survey rate for comparable one and two- bedrooms is $973 and $1,110.
However, the average countywide price for the fair market rent for a one-bedroom apartment is $1,557, according to Duane Leonard, the Executive Director of the Housing Authority of Snohomish County.
The vouchers also can’t be used in conjunction with Section 8 rental assistance, so Emmer is forgoing the aid as Section 8 offers her the greater benefit. Emmer has the task of finding two units, one for herself and one for her disabled sister. 
They and others being displaced must also figure out how to pay  for moving expenses.
I “do not think this is the fault of the previous owners or the new owners, they’re all just folks trying to run their own businesses and provide for their own needs. But I think there needs to be better safety nets established by both the government and local nonprofits dedicated to retaining and creating affordable housing in this community,” Emmer said in an email.
The new owners have agreed to accept the vouchers for 12 months. After that, tenants will be subject to new rates.
A letter spells out a potential increase: One-bedrooms would rent for $1,200 to $1,350 and two-bedrooms would run $1,400 to $1,550.
Pilchuck Ridge tenants have also received a letter of priority enrollment that guarantees them top-of-the-waiting-list status at other USDA affordable housing facilities. They can also use their current USDA assistance at other USDA properties.
But their silver lining is the raincloud for those already on the lists, who lose their place in line for the region’s scarce affordable housing options.
As for Emmer, she mourns the loss of community more than the 617-square-foot unit she’s called home. She doesn’t know who will help keep an eye on her sister now that a friend has had to leave the complex, how they will fare now that the neighbors who always looked out for each other are cities apart instead of next door.
While residents map out their options, renovations will be underway. A letter from management gave notice that workers will be on site Monday through Friday, starting at 7:30 a.m., transforming Pilchuck Ridge to market competitive housing.
A USDA spokesperson was unavailable for comment because of the federal government shutdown.



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