Citizens pack Edmonds Lutheran to learn about Blokable affordable housing project

Pastor Tim Oleson, right, listens to a question from an attendee.

A standing-room-only crowd of more than 200 neighbors and interested citizens filled the chapel at Edmonds Lutheran Church Thursday night to learn more about the housing project that could bring up to 90 low-income families to the Aurora Marketplace neighborhood.

The project, the result of a unique partnership between Edmonds Lutheran Church, Compass Housing Alliance, and home manufacturer Blokable, is envisioned to be constructed in three phases. Phase one, the first demo unit, was set in place June 29 on the church grounds. Phases two and three, which are envisioned to add between 80 and 90 additional living units, will be added as fundraising efforts allow (see My Edmonds News coverage here).

The audience was made up primarily of neighborhood residents, and also included Edmonds City Councilmembers Adrienne Fraley-Monillas and Dave Teitzel.

The meeting began with a welcome from the church pastoral team, Julie Josund and Tim Oleson.

Pastor Julie Josund

“The sign on our reader board says ‘Won’t you be my neighbor,’” began Josund. “We’ve been connecting with you about this project for some time now. Along the way we’ve learned that we have many shared values about what might be possible on the land behind our church. We want the church to be here for the long haul, and that means that this piece of land has to be safe, so that we and our neighbors, both new and old, can live healthy lives in peace and safety.

“We all have lots of questions,” Josund added. “Tonight we want to continue this conversation, share about the project, and make sure all your questions are answered.”

Compass Housing’s Janet Pope and Blokable’s Tim Miller address the more than 200 citizens, mostly from the surrounding neighborhood, who attended Thursday’s open house.

After outlining some general procedural guidelines for the evening, Oleson introduced Janet Pope, CEO of Compass Housing Alliance, and Tim Miller, vice president of design at Blokable.

“The answer to homelessness is a home,” began Pope. “But until we can build cheaper and faster, there will be no solution. We see our partnership with Blokable and Edmonds Lutheran as an exciting step that moves us in this direction.”

“Blokable’s mission is to make housing available for everyone,” said Miller. “We want to make them efficient, beautiful and compatible with the neighborhood. We accomplish this by using special low-maintenance materials that look great and last a long time. We can make Bloks fit into neighborhoods by varying the architecture and how they’re connected.

“In the end we want to create lots of housing, but housing that fits into the neighborhood where it’s placed and provides a sense of dignity to the residents,” he continued. “And because this project depends on private funding, these units have to be cost-effective. Blokables are coming in at about $200 per square foot, not including site costs, compared to an average of $600 per square foot in a traditional apartment building.”

Pope then went on to explain Compass’s income guidelines for potential tenants, which require that residents make 50 percent or less of the median area income. The rent will then be set so that no resident pays more than 30 percent of his or her income for this purpose.

“The reality is that homelessness is increasing, and that it’s being primarily driven by the cost of housing,” she said. “We’re talking about people who work — baristas, dental assistants, teachers, grocery workers — who can’t afford to live here on their salaries. Buildings like what we’re proposing here will help meet this need.”

But she was quick to point out that it’s more than just a roof and four walls.

“Compass takes care of its tenants by providing a range of services including case workers,” she explained. “Everyone who lives here will have case management services. The case workers are there to assist with health issues, job training, trauma recovery (being homeless is very traumatic, especially for kids), planning for future housing stability and more. To keep the case workers from being overwhelmed, we make sure that each one handles only between 10 and 15 clients.”

Questions from the audience ran the gamut, including how Compass plans to deal with crime, drug addiction and other social ills, and how it evicts chronic problem tenants; the timeline for phases two and three and the plan for ongoing maintenance. Some attendees simply praised the efforts of the church, Compass and Blokable for coming together with a fresh solution to local homelessness..

In response to questions about crime and illegal or disruptive activity, and how problem tenants are addressed, Pope referred to the set of “good neighbor” guidelines residents agree to prior to moving in.

Not everyone is happy with the prospect of low-income housing in the neighborhood, as this sign placed across the street from the church attests.

“Because each tenant has a caseworker, we are able to effectively stay on top of potentially difficult situations and address them before they become big problems,” she said.

Regarding the timeline for future project phases, Pope explained that since the project relies on private funds, the schedule is not set, but rather will move ahead as money becomes available.

“Working with Blokable makes this possible,” she added. “When the funds are there, Blokable units are there. It’s not like we have to construct a traditional building.”

Miller addressed the questions about ongoing maintenance by citing the smart features of the Blokable units.

“It’s not a smart home in the sense that most people think of when they hear that term,” he said. “The tenant doesn’t do the monitoring, we do. For instance, when a toilet is leaking it gets reported back to us via the smart system so we know about it right away and can fix it immediately.”

Suzanne Sullivan of Compass Housing Alliance wrapped up the meeting by talking about the upcoming events and next steps as the project moves forward. These include a “Community Blok Party” on July 29 from 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., during which the demonstration unit will be open for inspection and guided tours will be available. More tours will be scheduled in subsequent weeks, and will also be available on request at A reader board next to the new unit will provide schedules and details. Additional information is available on this fact sheet and FAQ.

Pastor Julie Josund took over to close the meeting, wishing all a safe trip home, and reminding the attendees to be thankful that they have a home to go to. “Not everyone does,” she added.

— Story and photos by Larry Vogel


12 Replies to “Citizens pack Edmonds Lutheran to learn about Blokable affordable housing project”

  1. By having the Pastors establishing the ground rules at the beginning the well attended meeting was both civil and informative for all the attendees thank you


  2. A very informative meeting that hopefully answered people’s questions. As a formerly homeless and low-income Veteran of Edmonds who had to spend 8 months “couch-surfing” because I could not find an affordable apartment on my social security disability income, I am excited about this project and truly appreciate the efforts if Edmonds Lutheran, Compass Housing and Blokable!


  3. Lower property taxes for WA state residents, and offset with a property tax increase on foreign speculators and a vacancy tax. This will make housing more affordable. Thumbs-down if you disagree.


  4. Great article Larry. Thank you for the very detailed coverage for those of us that could not make it and for those of us that have many questions.


  5. I hope people understand that this project is completely separate from the Draft Housing Strategy that’s currently being discussed. It sounded like some people thought the two were related…and they are not.


  6. I truly appreciate the efforts of the faith community to step forward and proactively address a community need. It seems cities often take far too long to come up with the perfect plan and as they say, perfect is the enemy of good. Thank you, Edmonds Lutheran Church!


  7. I was disappointed the Blokable wasn’t available for tour, but understood the open house would come later.,

    The Compass guidelines for good neighbors that include “each resident contributes to the weekly upkeep of a minimum of one communal area” is excellent and should be a continued condition of residency. No excuses or exceptions.

    Keep this place lovingly maintained, pristine and something for Edmonds to be proud of, not ashamed of. We all want people – tourist and other governments – to drive by and say “Wow, that’s your low income housing?” and not “Yep – that eyesore must be your low income housing!”


  8. I didn’t see what the plan was if someone breaks the rules? I linked to what the rules are, but I didn’t see anything regarding what happens if someone breaks the rules? Who watches or oversees the people who live in the houses to make sure rules are not broken? What are the steps to evict?


  9. I was not able to make Thursday’s meeting and am intrigued about this new venture. I am looking forward to the open house on the 29th. I did have a few questions and the email link in the article didn’t work. Is there a different email to send questions about the blokable? Thank you!


  10. Very informative. I find the smart house concept intriguing. It helps prevent deterioration and effectively manage the property for the long term. Well done Compass and Edmonds Lutheran. I’m looking forward to seeing the Model Unit.


  11. 7/29/18 The Seattle Times just had an article today about an elderly couple in Bellevue who allowed a homeless woman to set up her tent in their backyard. They were stabbed multiple times and are in the hospital – stabbed by this woman who then set their house on fire. Be careful what you welcome in your neighborhood.


  12. I am not an alcoholic. I am not a drug user. I have worked pretty consistently from my teens until I retired. I have two degrees. If I were a single female my income as a senior citizen would make it very difficult, if not impossible, to cover rent, food, and other living expenses. Would you be afraid of me? Do you think my situation unusual? Please think about it.


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