Housing Hope unveils plans for family apartments next to Edmonds Lutheran Church

  Edmonds residents got a new and detailed look at a small church’s big vision of how its congregation can help families in desperate need of permanent housing.

  Housing Hope of Snohomish County unveiled new plans at its partner location, Edmonds Lutheran Church, at a Sunday public gathering.

Site of proposed Housing Hope/Edmonds Lutheran Church apartments.

The group plans to build 52 apartments for low-income families on land adjacent to the church on 236th Street Southwest and across from the Edmonds Safeway store. Housing Hope and Edmonds Lutheran announced their plans last fall.

Pastor Tim Oleson, Edmonds Lutheran Church

“It’s been such a vision for this congregation,” Pastor Tim Oleson said in an earlier interview. “For a long time, our mission is to bring hope and healing to the community and the world. We know how important stable, secure housing is for hope and healing.” Oleson added that his 200 members understand the stability that comes when “you don’t have to worry about am I going to be able to buy food next week, or do I have to worry about the rent?”

Architect’s rendering: View from 236th Street Southwest.

  Once Housing Hope and the church get their city permits, they plan to break ground in the fall of 2023, with the project open for tenants by 2024. There will be seven one bedroom/one bath units; 32 two-bedroom/one bath units and 13 three-bedroom/two bath apartments in four buildings. The units are all intended for families with children.

Architect’s rendering: Edmonds Lutheran Church/Housing Hope project.
Architect’s rendering with existing church in the foreground.

Half the units are set aside for families experiencing homelessness who earn less than $39,000 per year for a family of four. The other half are for families with incomes of less than $65,000 annually for a family of four. Click here to read the Housing Hope plan.

This is the group’s first venture into South Snohomish County. The 35-year-old nonprofit currently owns and operates more than 500 similar apartments in Everett, Marysville, Stanwood, Arlington, Monroe, Sultan and Snohomish.

Four years ago, Edmonds Lutheran originally proposed a low-income housing project for the same piece of land. That project was to be 90 units using Blokables – pre-fabricated units that fit together like building blocks.

Blokable housing unit under construction. (Photo courtesy Blokable Manufacturing)

But the partnership with the church, Compass Housing Alliance and Blokable Manufacturing failed, due in part to financing issues and changing priorities at Compass.

Housing Hope CEO Fred Safstrom outlines the plan during Sunday’s gathering.

The new proposed apartment complex is not “temporary’ or “emergency” or “shelter” housing. It is designed for families with children who cannot afford market-priced apartments. Housing Hope CEO Fred Safstrom told some three dozen people attending Sunday’s meetig that this project will provide what the group calls “permanent supportive housing” – with no limit on the time families can stay in the program. The goal, however, says the group, is “to help families stabilize and move on to other housing opportunities.”

Once a family has stayed in a Housing Hope project successfully for one year, they are eligible for ‘housing choice’ vouchers that will stabilize their “current affordable rent in the private market.”

Discussion sessions at Edmonds Lutheran Church Sunday.

The congregation, said Oleson, met several times with Housing Hope, visited their apartments and then voted “unanimously” to partner with the nonprofit. Oleson believes that 52 families will “have new hope stirred in them, especially in the economic times we face over the next several years… and that they invest in their children, find ways forward in the community, rather than just survive.“

From the discussion sessions during Sunday’s meeting came questions:

“Who would live in the apartments?” Those with criminal records, or sex offenders? Safstrom said that since Housing Hope serves families, “sex offenders are not eligible, and neither are those with a history of violence or firearms incidents.” The group’s guidelines say those with a history of substance abuse could qualify – “we know that stable housing is the foundation these families need to continue their recovery.” Drugs are not allowed on-site, and Housing Hope says security will be provided “as needed” on nights and weekends.

 “Are you for profit or nonprofit?” Nonprofit, said Safstrom, adding that Housing Hope is not a “faith-based” organization.

“How do you pay for your program?” State housing trust funds, federal money and grants cover the big capital projects, he added, further explaining that the  apartment units generate revenue, and there is income from Section ‘8 public housing vouchers. The revenue covers the cost “of all operations and services.”

The nonprofit says there will be “family support coaches” and employment and education assistance, as well as a health screening facility – all on-site. Outdoor playgrounds, for all ages of kids — and a community room for adult education will be provided. It will be, said Safstrom, a “resident-led community.”

The project still must meet city permit requirements, and there are sure to be further public presentations and discussion. The price tag: $27 million. Edmonds Lutheran Church sold the property to Housing Hope for less than market value.

There is one thing that this development would not resolve – the soaring countywide need for more affordable housing.  Housing Hope already has a five-year backlog of applicants for low-income apartments; it is unlikely that they will take new applicants. But Pastor Oleson and his congregation believe that this project can provide hope and healing for 52 families, and they are committed to that.

— By Bob Throndsen

  1. Kudos to Edmonds Lutheran Church for pursuing their vision to provide stable housing for families who have been priced out of the market. We’ve heard a lot of talk about the need for affordable housing in Edmonds but there hasn’t been much action. This project will be truly life changing for the families, especially the children, who will be fortunate enough to live there. Bravo!

  2. Will daycare be provided? This would be a big issue for parents that are trying to stay or progress in the workforce.

  3. This approach makes sense for the segment of the home challenged population coming from an unequal income based problem of securing housing and is much needed and welcomed generally in our community. Some local community members adjacent to or near to the property might still take issue with it’s presence there, but at least it’s being done under the auspices of a group with a proven track record of providing such housing dating well before the current crises that has become so visual with the public space appropriation and camping phenomenon.

    This project will not do much to address the portion of this problem that is based on mental illness and anti-social behavior in general (substance abuse and criminal life styles of survival). We still need to get some sort of regional service center concept going to serve the needs of that population and to protect the interests of our more stable population in general. A big task both financially and sociologically in what appears to be a declining general economic situation in terms of crippling inflation and economic pressures on even reasonably affluent people residing in our town. Why are our current town leaders and visionaries pushing questionable and spendy type projects, under these circumstances?

  4. So pleased to see that 2 and 3 bedroom units will be built so that actual families can live there. The support services are an additional plus to this community. Nothing was said about elevators so that those with mobility issues do not have to be consigned to just ground floor units where one cannot leave windows open for fresh or cooling air flow. Hope those are also part of the plan for some units at least.

  5. Thank you Pastor Tim , Edmonds Lutheran Congregtion and Housing Hope for doing what needs to be done.
    It truly has been a journey. Hopefully your development will move quickly through the permitting process and your vision will become a reality.
    May your vision be a role model for other congregations , local civic groups and , especially, regional governments.
    It is clear that all levels of of government, meaning us the taxpayers, must provide more subsidized housing for working families.
    Included in this necessary emphasis on housing are emergency shelters, low barrier housing, bridge housing and the accompanying medical care that the unhoused need.
    Mental health and substance addictions are medical issues, whether you are rich or poor.
    There is a lot to be done to solve our housing issues.
    You are visionaries, showing us the way.
    You are walking the talk.
    Thank you for your commitment to our neighbors.

  6. Did not see the presentation but this looks like a great model for others to emulate. Clint’s points are also right on about the limits of such a development. What we may not fully understand is the finished cost per sq foot for the units. Usually, the land cost is a very large percent of the ending sq ft cost. In this case the land cost may be quite low and therefore the ending cost will also be lower than normal.

    Find cheap land that is already owned by the public and that may be useful to consider for developments like this.

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