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Everett Herald: Housing Hope opens doors to affordable housing for 60 Marysville families

Riley Haun, HeraldNet

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Washington, D.C., February 24, 2023 | comments

The nonprofit’s largest project yet opened Wednesday. The complex will house formerly homeless and low-income families.

Everett-based nonprofit Housing Hope officially welcomed 60 families into affordable housing Wednesday at its newest and largest development so far, Twin Lakes Landing II in Marysville.

About 100 people gathered on the basketball court and playground at the center of the complex, including U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene, D-Medina, representatives from the Tulalip Tribes and county and city elected officials. Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring cut the ribbon marking the development, the nonprofit’s fourth in the city, as ready for its new residents.

Attendees huddled in hats and scarves to stave off the unusually chilly morning, but as Housing Hope’s outgoing CEO Fred Safstrom took the stage, a break in the clouds formed. Sun beamed down on the development for a few short moments.

“It’s days like today that I believe the sun is always, always shining on Housing Hope,” Safstrom told the crowd.

Half of the complex’s 60 units are earmarked for families coming out of homelessness, said Housing Hope spokesperson Joan Penney. The other half will be leased at sub-market rates to families earning less than half the area’s median income. For Snohomish County households, that was about $95,000 in 2021.

Safstrom thanked the elected officials present for their support of the project and their work to pass relevant legislation. He credited the county’s 2021 introduction of a 0.1% sales tax hike with adding $23 million towards building low-income housing like Twin Lakes, as compared to the $2 million available annually before.

In her remarks, DelBene advocated for an expansion of the federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credit, which she said would bring 66,000 units of affordable housing to Washington. DelBene and U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell introduced a Congressional bill to that effect in 2021.

The new complex is just a short walk from the first Twin Lakes Landing, opened in 2017. Modular, prefabricated apartment buildings face the two small lakes they’re named for, and the traffic of the Lakewood Crossing shopping center can be heard a short distance away.

The lakes, ringed with evergreens lightly dusted in snow, make a pristine view from one of the complex’s units. Penney said Housing Hope typically takes any property it can get, so it was kind of a happy accident that the nonprofit ended up building here.

The high water table on the surrounding wetlands caused some setbacks during construction, including a six-month delay due to insufficient drainage, but the project still wrapped up on time and under budget, according to Safstrom.

“It wasn’t always the ideal place, but it was still a great opportunity,” Penney said. “We really needed to be here.”

Metal sculptures of a bear, orca, eagle and fish adorn each of the complex’s four buildings, rendered in the style of traditional Tulalip artworks. Artist James Madison, a Tulalip Tribes member, said the four creatures represent different types of people — people of the mountains, sea, rivers and forests — coming together to live “communally” in the homes they watch over.

The complex was built with sustainability in mind, Penney said, from the triple-pane windows for heat loss prevention to the small solar arrays on each building’s roof. The nonprofit is seeking Passive House certification for Twin Lakes, which would indicate the project meets standards set by Chicago nonprofit Phius for dramatic reductions in energy usage.

Just off the courtyard, a community center houses offices where in-house staff will be available to help tenants with the next steps of their journey. As with all of Housing Hope’s properties, staff stay connected with clients once they’re placed in housing to help them find jobs, gain parenting and financial skills and seek recovery from trauma or substance abuse. It’s been an effective approach, Penney said, with 68% of working-age adults in the first Twin Lakes complex currently employed.

But those great numbers mean there’s a long line out the door for others hoping to score a spot in a Housing Hope property. The wait list is about five years long, Penney said, but she emphasized that a long wait shouldn’t discourage anyone needing help from applying.

Patricia Gautreaux and her daughter Audrey were touring a model unit in anticipation of moving into one of their own in just a few weeks. Gautreaux came to Western Washington from Louisiana after Hurricane Ida left her homeless in 2021. Seeing the ever-increasing frequency of devastating natural disasters, she decided to leave her home state.

“It happened so often down there that there were no resources, no one to help you because everyone was always rebuilding,” Gautreaux said. “It was a lost cause.”

She and her daughter stayed in a shelter at first, then moved into a hotel, where they’ve been since. Gautreaux’s mother, Rebecca Cantrelle, joined them shortly thereafter. A connection at the shelter told Gautreaux about Housing Hope, and she reached out right away.

That was in October, and she said it’s been a “true blessing” that the organization was able to find her a spot at Twin Lakes so quickly. Cantrelle said waiting to hear if they would be placed felt endless, like it might never happen. But once they were set for the new apartment, she said the nonprofit helped them every step of the way, checking in regularly to update them on construction progress and even offering to help them find furniture for their new home.

“We were so scared that nothing would happen for our family, that we wouldn’t get this chance to start over,” Cantrelle said. “We were lucky just to get out.”

“But they made it happen for us,” Gautreaux added. “We’re here, and now we’re halfway there to rebuilding.”

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