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NeighborWorks introduces new director Eric Bjella

Every so often we here at NeighborWorks of Grays Harbor like to reintroduce ourselves!

While we’ve been here in Grays Harbor since 1981, we know that new folks are always moving into town – and that some of the people who were teens when we started writing this column are now homeowners – or want to be!

In just a bit, we’ll tell you more about our housing organization. But first, we have another exciting introduction to make!

Eric Bjella is new exec director!

With excitement and anticipation, we’d like to introduce Eric Bjella, who is stepping into the executive director role.

After more than 32 years with NeighborWorks and 15 years as executive director, Dave Murnen will be retiring at the end of May.

Eric, who has worked as the VP/Marketing Director for Bank of the Pacific since 2010, as well as having been a valued member of our Board of Directors since 2018, began his new role here May 1.

We will share more in the near future about our goals for this organization going forward, but wanted to at least share this exciting news with you!

In the meantime, let’s get back to basics and remind you a bit about all this organization does!

A bit of a review

Basically, NeighborWorks of Grays Harbor is a private non-profit organization governed by a solid volunteer board of directors. Our mission is to help the Grays Harbor community with housing-related issues by creating affordable housing opportunities and solutions in partnership with local governments, businesses and residents.

Although some of our services require income-qualification, HUD housing counseling is available regardless of income, at no cost.

If you have a question regarding housing – from ownership to preventing foreclosure, advice on maintenance to hiring a contractor, dealing with a landlord to securing a rental, building a budget or building your credit, just give us a call. If we can’t help you ourselves, we can usually point you in the right direction.

Last week we fleshed out a few of the things we specifically help with including mortgage default as well as home buyer assistance, education and counseling.

Today we’re going to talk a bit about budgeting and money management help as well as landlord/tenant relations.

Budgeting help, money management

Because nearly everyone can use a little help sorting out monthly bills or determining how best to reach financial goals (such as savings, buying a home, paying for an education, taking a vacation, etc.), we offer budget/money management counseling.

Anyone feeling the need to get a handle on their spending or wanting to learn the skills necessary for financial stability can access this service, at no charge.

Landlord/ Tenant help

First of all, we are not attorneys! Our landlord/tenant advice is only intended to give you a starting point to address your concerns.

Poor communication and not understanding responsibilities of and between parties creates most of the problems we hear about. If we can help you understand or better maintain your rental relationships through information directly available in the Landlord-Tenant Act, we will do so.

Our housing counselor can help both landlords and tenants better understand their rights and responsibilities based on what the Washington State Landlord-Tenant Act says, not our interpretation. The Act is available online or in a paper copy at our office.

The counselor can offer some simple advice, but if you even have an inkling that you have a legal issue, the simple advice will be to find a knowledgeable attorney. You should bypass us and begin with a call to NW Justice Project’s CLEAR line (1-888-201-1014). You will find out if you and your case qualify for their legal help and if there is a cost for their legal services.

Rental units

While there are many well-kept rental properties in the Grays Harbor area, there are still too many units that generate ongoing owner, tenant and neighbor complaints.

Through our daily efforts, we have been able to create quality, safe and affordable housing options which hopefully creating strong competition for other rental properties in the area to become better.

Of our 38 rental units, 16 are rent-subsidized units. The remaining homes are offered at or below fair-market rent, and located throughout both Aberdeen and Hoquiam. At this writing however, all of our units are leased.


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