Local nonprofit organization Housing Hope broke ground on Aug. 30 on what will become 60 new units of housing for low-income and homeless people in Smokey Point.
The Snohomish County organization focuses on building housing for low-income and homeless families.
Half of the 60 new units are planned to go to families with children dealing with homelessness and other the half are planned to go to low-income families with children.
The $19.2 million Twin Lakes Landing II project is an expansion of a previous Housing Hope project that opened in late 2017.
“This is a critical partnership for the city of Marysville,” said Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring. “Four years ago we had the thrill of participating in the first phase."
Housing Hope provides housing at below-market rates to help families get on their feet.
“This really helps low-income families transition into a home where they’re safe and secure,” said Nehring.
The organization also provides support services, especially for those who are looking to escape homelessness.
“I love the way Housing Hope wraps services around them,” said Nehring.
Mel Simpson, a Housing Hope board member and former resident, said the housing she was provided helped her in many ways.
“I was a residence at Maple Leaf. I was a single mom in a dark place in my life and Housing Hope gave me an opportunity to do better,” she said.
During her time as a residence she was able to put herself through college.
“Now I’m a proud owner of my own house and my own business and I’m honored I get to give back what I got,” she said.
Affordable housing continues to be a need around Marysville.
“We’re still one of the fastest growing cities in the state and this problem will continue to come up,” said Nehring. “We need more and more of this."
The housing crisis extends to all areas of the state and country, as well.
“There aren’t many issues I can point to across the five counties that I represent that are common, but affordable housing is one of those issues,” said U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen. “There’s not enough affordable housing in the county and across the northwest."
Housing Hope CEO Fred Safstrom said the local housing market continues to squeeze low-income families out of stability.
“Our creation of new housing stock is not keeping up [with population growth] and, in fact, in six of the last seven years we have seen a decline of the housing stock in that we are losing more houses than we are creating,” he said.
Safstrom noted that house prices going up for homeowners is a cause for celebration, but is making life for renters increasingly untenable.
“That’s great if you’re a homeowner. Because if you’re a homeowner your cost of housing is fixed,” he said. “But what if you’re not? What if you’re one of the one-third of Snohomish County residents who rent?”
About 22 percent of Snohomish County residents pay more than half their income in rent, he noted.
Funding for the project came from a variety of sources, including state of Washington, Snohomish County and federal funds meant to support homeless individuals.
The state provided $5 million to the project.
“There was $4 million from the Housing Trust Fund, and also a $1 million award that allows us to design a passive house project [meant to reduce carbon usage],” said Bobby Thompson, chief housing officer for Housing Hope.
The city of Marysville also waived half of their traffic impact fees for the project.
“We see the impact of the housing credit on projects just like this one because it’s created the financing that allows projects like this to move forward,” said U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene.
She said the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit, a federal tax credit meant to create affordable housing, is one of the main funding sources and they hope to expand the money provided by the program.
“We’ve been pushing the housing credit,” said DelBene, including with a new proposed bill that could create more than 2 million affordable housing units in the U.S. over the next decade.
“Around the country, especially in our region, finding a safe, affordable home is becoming increasingly difficult for low-income families and for middle-income families,” she said.