By Billie Heath RCAC rural development specialist – housing

photo of highfive awardWashington takes a pat on the back to a whole new level with the “High Five Award!” The always creative and supportive staff at the USDA Rural Development (RD) office in Washington took advantage of their time and funding to organize a day and a half statewide meeting that included RD staff, RCAC staff and Self-Help housing grantee staff from throughout the state, and representatives from the Housing Assistance Council and Community Frameworks. Construction workers, loan processors, executive directors and a variety of personnel involved in the program had the opportunity to collaborate, discuss areas of concern and receive training on everything from 502 loan processing and the environmental review process to energy star and audit requirements.

But, in Washington’s partnership approach to the Mutual Self-Help Housing Program RD did something pretty cool, they gave out awards! Nominations for the “High Five Award” were solicited from both RD and grantees. Fifteen awardees were presented with a framed certificate stating the nominee’s contribution and a fun “High Five” statute.

The winners were:

  • Trudy Teter, RD single family housing specialist, Southwest Area office, Port Angeles
  • Sybil Pitton, Whatcom-Skagit housing loan packager
  • Susie Varela, RD single family housing specialist, Southwest Area office, Brush Prairie
  • Nancy Larsen, Whatcom-Skagit executive director
  • Randy Elliot, RD single family housing specialist, Southwest Area office, Olympia
  • Maria Ayala, Catholic Charities Housing Services housing counselor
  • Laura Capo, RD single family housing specialist, Southwest Area office, Port Angeles
  • Lucero Cortez, Catholic Charities Housing Services loan packager
  • Jim Olson, RD single family housing specialist, Northeast Area office, Wenatchee
  • Juanita Burnham, Lower Columbia Community Action Council group coordinator
  • Billie Heath, RCAC rural development specialist
  • Dean Nail, Kitsap County Consolidated Housing Authority interim self-help dousing director
  • Anne Nicasio, RD single family loan specialist, Northwest Area office, Mt. Vernon
  • Deanna Councilor, Kitsap County Consolidated Housing Authority loan packager
  • Andria Hively, RD single family housing state loan specialist, Olympia

Two of the recipients were particularly noteworthy. Nancy Larsen has been Whatcom-Skagit Housing’s executive director for more than 20 years. This grantee has consistently received an outstanding rating in its grant evaluation. The grantee is completing the final approvals for a subdivision that has taken more than seven years to develop—overcoming regulatory, NIMBY, and environmental issues. The grantee builds attractive yet affordable energy efficient homes in the northwest corner of the country.

Another high performing grantee is Kitsap County Consolidated Housing Authority where Dean Nail was recently named its self-help housing program interim director. In the presentation, Tammy Repine noted that Dean was a participant in the program some 20 years ago, and she made the 502 loan on his house when she was at the local office.

Recognizing the award recipients emphasized that it takes a partnership between the grantee, T&MA contractor and the RD staff to make the program successful, and it was a positive way to end the meeting. We hope to continue to have these joint sessions for discussion, coordination, and working together on ways to be efficient yet effective in providing affordable housing.