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By Neely Stratton
For the Beacon 

Affordable housing is coming to uptown

Housing Hope to break ground on 52-unit complex this fall


Last updated 6/23/2022 at 11:34am

Neely Stratton

Housing Hope CEO Fred Safstrom addressed the management of the apartment complex during a presentation at Edmonds Lutheran Church.

A new affordable housing option is close to becoming a reality in Edmonds. After a few false starts, Edmonds Lutheran Church sold a 1.35-acre lot to Housing Hope to create a 52-unit affordable apartment complex adjacent to the church on 236th Street and 84th Avenue West.

On Sunday, the public was invited to a presentation by Housing Hope and Edmonds Lutheran Church to review the plan to build the on the lot east of the church. About 30 people showed up to hear what Housing Hope had to say.

"Our desired outcome was to create an event where we could present the Edmonds Lutheran Church housing community specifics and have the local neighborhood be able to ask questions and voice any concerns," said Joan Penney, public relations manager for Housing Hope.

Expressing concerns is what brought homeowner Johan Mannes to the event. He owns property directly adjacent to the lot to be developed and is concerned particularly with how this might impact his property values. But he said he concedes that the project is better than what was previously planned.

"I like this better than the Blokables idea," Mannes said. "I'm more in favor of this because it will be better managed."

Edmonds Lutheran Church has been searching for a good fit to provide affordable housing in Edmonds for the past couple of years. Initially, it worked with Compass Housing Alliance and a company called Blokable to construct stackable housing units on the property, but the deal fell through after only a single Blokable unit was placed onsite with much fanfare.

"Compass lacked the bandwidth to run that program," said the Rev. Tim Oleson of Edmonds Lutheran Church. "We need a partner who will take over and run it."

Fred Safstrom, Housing Hope CEO, specifically addressed management of the property during the presentation.

"We are here. We stay present at the site," Saffstrom said. "We present a level of services that is extraordinary."

The property will include onsite management, as well as a resident council to address issues that arise and to help facilitate operation of the community.

"The council will be instrumental in keeping the site in a peaceful and orderly manner," said Safstrom.

Housing Hope owns and operates 541 affordable units at 23 locations throughout Snohomish County. It provides a combination of housing access and support services to help families become self-sufficient.

"This is a really good fit for the church's need for community service and how Housing Hope delivers that," Safstrom said.

A long-time hope

Edmonds Lutheran Church has long searched for a project to use its adjacent land to help provide housing in Edmonds.

"It has been a long-time hope, drive, and dream to use the church campus to help those in need," said Oleson. "It is our congregational mission and vision to bring hope and help to the world."

Housing Hope finalized the purchase of the land for $1.578 million. It plans to construct the new community within 14-16 months after breaking ground this fall.

The project is expected to cost $27.5 million. Funding comes from a variety of sources, including low-income housing tax credits, county and state funding designated for housing, low-interest construction loans, community development bank financing, and donations.

"Housing Hope has a strong and proven track record of bringing a diversity of funding to its housing development, including outside funds," said Penney.

It is imperative to remedy the lack of affordable housing opportunities in Snohomish County, said Penney. Housing Hope provides those options, as well as support services to help families become self-sufficient.

Of the 52 units that will ultimately be available, 26 are reserved for families experiencing homelessness and will be administered through the Section 8 voucher program provided by the Housing Authority of Snohomish County (HASCO).

The remaining units will be offered to families with children whose incomes are below 50% of the area median income of $57,850.

"We recognize that it takes a combination of housing and support services to give struggling families opportunities to become self-sufficient," Penney said. "Our programs offer critical support to families at each step of the process."

Among the many issues that neighbors addressed during both the recent presentation and the breakout session that followed was how families will be chosen to live on the property.

"I have some concerns about who be living here and how it will be managed," said Mannes. "I'm just getting information today."

Oleson was largely unconcerned with opposition to low-income housing next to the church, some of which was displayed during Blokable presentations.

"If there were extreme resistance, there would be more of a presence here today," he said.

Neely Stratton

The Rev. Tim Oleson of Edmonds Lutheran Church: "If there were extreme resistance, there would be more of a presence here today."

For its part, Housing Hope is receptive to neighborhood worries and expects that this opportunity to address questions about the housing project was fruitful in allaying concerns that neighbors might have. The benefits of the project to provide affordable housing in Snohomish County are in keeping with the overall purpose of Housing Hope.

"We're dedicated to making a substantial contribution to the issue of housing affordability in Snohomish County," Safstrom said.

He mentioned that Housing Hope has been asked to participate in other counties in the affordable housing market, but the organization is interested in working only in Snohomish County to fulfill its goals at this time.

Said Penney: "The ultimate goal of all Housing Hope's developments is to give families the foundation of safe, stable, and affordable housing they need to break the cycle of poverty."


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