When he appointed the Edmonds Housing Task force last summer, Mayor Dave Earling made it clear that while the housing crisis affects many communities, Edmonds needs solutions tailored to our specific needs.
“Many groups around the region are working on housing and homelessness issues,” noted Earling. “We need our own approach, one that recognizes good examples from others but is tailored to our community, our people, our needs.”
Edmonds Lutheran Church took up the challenge, forming a unique partnership with Compass Housing Alliance and innovative housing manufacturer Blokable to transform a portion of the church grounds into an entirely new idea in housing.
Blokable, formed in 2016 and based in Vancouver, Wash., builds entire housing units varying from studios to three-bedrooms. They are designed to be stand-alone structures, or connected as part of multi-unit buildings in an array of configurations.
And the first unit ever was installed Friday, June 29 in the large field adjacent to Edmonds Lutheran Church, located just off Highway 99 in Edmonds’ Aurora Marketplace neighborhood.
“This is an entirely new concept,” said Blokables CEO Aaron Holm. “We’re building something that’s never been built before. This is the first unit – it’s the world premier. Are we excited? You bet!”
Blokable units are modern, energy-efficient, technological marvels. Holm takes pains to point out that these are not traditional modular housing, but are built from the ground up to take on the “real housing crisis” by providing the kind of housing that’s needed but not getting built, and are providing a new way of efficiently addressing the housing problem.
“They have baked-in smart home features that monitor everything from energy use to temperature to air quality,” he added. “All construction materials are non-toxic, and some even absorb and remove contaminants from the indoor air. These are smart, high-performance buildings, super energy-efficient, beautiful and thoughtful.”
Compass CEO Janet Pope called it “a great opportunity for us to further our mission to provide affordable housing for homeless and low-income people in the greater Puget Sound region.
“Edmonds Lutheran has the land and shares our values of wanting to provide affordable housing and reach out to the homeless,” Pope continued. “The City of Edmonds has been awesome to work with, essentially telling us ‘we want affordable housing, this is a great location, how can we help?’ And then to have Blokable and their innovative approach to housing show up in our own backyard was an incredible stroke of fortune.
“Blokable could have started anywhere, so to have this as their first project is particularly exciting,” Pope added.
This first unit is intended as a demonstration, but the plans call for more to follow, with phase 2 adding an estimated two dozen residences, followed by an anticipated 60 more in phase 3.
“We don’t have a set schedule for these yet,” explained Pope. “We’re trying to get this done quickly, so we’re doing it with private funding to avoid the longer process of public funding. We’re still actively fundraising, and the schedule will be driven by how quickly we can do this.”
For Pope, having this project in Edmonds is personal.
“I’ve lived in the Edmonds area for years,” she said. “I taught in Shorewood High School for 12 years, and my kids all graduated from Mountlake Terrace High School. This area is so beautiful. I’m really pleased to be able to help bring this energy to our community.”
Pastor Julie Josund is excited to have Edmonds Lutheran in the forefront of this new and innovative approach to fulfilling their calling.
“This is the way it should be,” she said. “Churches leading the way to make a difference.”
Edmonds Lutheran will host an open house/informational meeting for the community on July 12 to provide information and answer questions about the project. Doors will open at 6:30 p.m., and the program will begin at 7 p.m.
— Story and photos by Larry Vogel