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Larsen visits Twin Lakes Landing


Christopher Andersson

photo BY CHRISTOPHER ANDERSSON Fred Safstrom, chief executive officer of Housing Hope, left, and U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen tour the Lakewood Twin Lakes Landing housing on July 5

U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen visited Lakewood's recently opened Twin Lakes Landing from Housing Hope and talked about the affordable housing crisis with local experts on July 5.

Larsen is the local representative whose district includes Arlington and Marysville and stretches from north Everett to parts of Bellingham.

The Twin Lakes Landing opened last December from local nonprofit organization Housing Hope and has 50 apartments, 38 of which host people coming out of homelessness situations.

Chief executive officer for Housing Hope Fred Safstrom said that the organization has moved to prioritize applicants who have the highest need in recent years.

"It used to be first come, first serve, but that has changed and I think that's a really good change," he said.

Safstrom said the location "has exceeded all our expectations. The resident community has been very supportive of one another."

Some of Housing Hope's locations only host families, but the Lakewood location has a wider range of ages and situations for its residents.

"For the first time we have some single adults that are mixed in with this population," said Safstrom.

"And they really are helping each other," said Stef Zandell, family support coach, who said that the single residents often are interested in what they can do to support the children and families there.

The community has also been supportive of homeless individuals in a nearby homeless encampment.

"We had some things we didn't anticipate. We have a wooded property next door that is well known for its homeless encampments and these residents who were recently rescued out of that same situation have great empathy for these folks," said Safstrom.

Residents hope to share their community garden with the nearby homeless individuals.

"They are actually planting one plot that is specifically going to be for the homeless population," said Zandell.

The location also includes community rooms, which have been running classes to help people toward self-sufficiency.

Zandell said five different classes are running at the location, including a cooking class with Housing Hope's first teaching kitchen facility.

Local officials also talked with Larsen about affordable housing and how it was "depressing times" for many.

"I think we all know that it is lacking," said Larsen. "Housing is scarce and expensive."

Larsen is part of a coalition of Democrats known as the New Democrats who recently released a report about the national housing situation detailing how more and more people are being edged out of homeownership.

Many said that the situation was worse in the northwest as well.

"The boom in Seattle construction is through the roof," said Ashley Lommers-Johnson, Everett Housing Authority's executive director.

To make matters harder, the supply of low-income housing is actually shrinking because they are being closed faster than they are being built, said Brell Vujovic, Snohomish County's director of human services.

Safstrom said that decreasing home ownership is a problem that has wide-ranging impacts.

"That's a primary source of most Americans retirement, the equity of their home," he said.

Even renting is a problem for many lower-income people though, he said.

"It requires $36 per hour to reasonably be able to afford a two-bedroom apartment in Snohomish County," he said.

"We have a major disconnect when we're arguing over a $15 minimum wage when it requires $36 to get an apartment," he said.


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