The landscape of West Main Street is beginning to change, as earth moving equipment has torn down a familiar old white house and the surrounding trees to make room for a new housing development for low income people.
The house, which once was the home office of Doctor Maryann Ivons, will make way for four modern condominium buildings totaling 47 units, the largest single project that Snohomish County non-profit Housing Hope has ever undertaken.
What is being built
Housing Hope is building a 47-unit development to be called Monroe Family Village on 2.36 acres on West Main Street near St. Vincent de Paul. Ten of the units will be for people transitioning out of homelessness. Another 13 will be for people who are extremely low income. The rest, 24 units, will be low-rent units for moderately low-income families.
The buildings are planned as modern, Northwestern-style structures, with interrupted facades, geometric shapes and contrasting color-block panels.
The condos will be divided into four “villages,” or buildings.
There is also to be a play area for children, and it is to include attractive landscaping and a “pocket park,” a green open space the community can share.
But condos aren’t the only thing Housing Hope is building at the site.
The organization is also planning to build a business there, one of Housing Hope’s “social enterprises,” part of a program called HopeWorks, begun in 2011.
“Its mission is to provide our families and others in the community with job skills and experience they can use out in the broader community,” said Nate Greenland, Philanthropy Manager for Housing Hope.
A social enterprise is a business that is related to the work Housing Hope already does. For example, one of the organization’s enterprises is in landscaping. Employees can be Housing Hope residents, and they can work on Housing Hope’s own properties, learning a skill they can then use for life.
Other enterprises include a high-end home furnishing consignment shop in Everett, and an irrigation business.
Four more enterprises are in the works, and one is planned for Monroe Family Village; although what kind of business it will be is not yet decided.
Community to help with funds
The overall cost of the construction of the new complex will be about $12.7 million. That includes the cost of the land, the cost of design, prepping the site, and all of the construction.
Most of that will come in the form of grants from both private and public sources. The City of Monroe is helping by reducing the cost of school mitigation impact fees.
Housing Hope also raises funds through annual events.
But it is important to the organization, said Greenland, for the community to also buy in to the project, and so Housing Hope will seek $50,000 in funding from supporters in the Monroe and Sky Valley area.
One of the ways they plan to do that is to sell decorative pavers.
“There will be 100 of them, and we are selling them for $100 each,” said Greenland. “They will be laid on the ground right along the road.”
Each one will be engraved, and they are available to honor a loved one, can be made on behalf of a family or businesses, or as a personal donation. The paver will be engraved with the name the donor wishes.
Housing for homeless families
Monroe Family Village is designed to serve a spectrum of income levels from low to very low, and are priced accordingly.
Ten of the units are for families with children who have recently been homeless. Residents pay 30 percent of their income, and can stay up to two years.
Transitional housing is a lot more than a place to live, however. Residents are required to follow certain rules, and also to participate in educational programs.
Weapons, alcohol and drugs are prohibited. Children must be supervised, and overnight guests must be approved.
Each family gets a case manager, and meets with the case manager once a week. Together, they develop goals centered around the steps to independence.
Goals might include completing high school, sorting out legal problems, identifying reliable child care, finding employment and learning how to manage money.
Housing Hope also offers, in partnership with other local agencies, about 37 classes in life skills.
“We partner with Take the Next Step on the College of Hope, which is a huge piece for families to thrive and grow, and get the knowledge and skills they didn’t get growing up,” said Greenland. “Things like managing anger, shopping for nutritious food, balancing a checkbook, raising kids from toddlers to teens and more. That’s one of the programs I love because we are collaborative. We bring in community teachers to provide classes, we teach some ourselves or have other experts teach.”
To live there, people pay 30 percent of their income. At first, that can be very low. Greenland said that $100 a month is possible. Over time, the residents’ incomes typically rise, and along with it, the amount of rent they pay.
Some of those residents will eventually move on to Housing Hope’s low income housing units.
There are two levels of low-income housing going in at Monroe Family Village.
The first is for very low income families. Those families must earn 30 percent or less of the median regional income.
A family is defined as at least one adult and one child under 18.
Since the median regional income for a family of four is $88,200, that means a family of four would need to earn $26,400 a year or less to qualify. Those apartments have vouchers attached to them, provided by the Snohomish County Housing Authority, that allow the families to pay just 30 percent of their income. That means that the most a family of four would pay for housing in the 13 units set aside for very low income would be $660 per month.
The other 24 units are for families earning half or less of the median area income; for a family of four, that means $44,100 or less. Rent in those apartments isn’t on a sliding scale.
Rather, two-bedroom units will rent for $885 per month and three-bedroom units for $1,000.
Housing Hope verifies income to ensure that the renters can afford the rent, and that the family doesn’t earn too much to qualify.
How to get in
Access to the units will be on a first-come, first-served basis, but there is a waiting list.
Currently, there are more than 200 families on the Housing Hope waiting list in the Sky Valley alone, waiting for space at any of Housing Hope’s multiple properties.
“You just leave your contact info with us,” said Greenland. “We do that because there are other housing agencies, and so when they get to the top of the list, we call and ask, ‘Are you still in need?’”
The ribbon cutting is planned for next May, and by then, Housing Hope may be calling people on the waiting list and inviting them to apply.
To get on the waiting list, families should contact Housing Hope at 425-347-6556.
About Housing Hope
Housing Hope was founded in Snohomish County in 1987, in response to rising numbers of homeless people due to increased housing costs and cuts in federal funding for housing.
That year, Snohomish County homeless shelters served 2,649 people, less than half of the people who tried to get in.
Housing Hope started out with five shelter spaces and seven units in 1988. Since then, they have come to focus on four types of housing; emergency shelter, transitional housing, low income housing, and self-help homeownership programs.
The self-help homeownership program allows people who qualify to contribute labor to the construction of their own home.
Housing Hope has more than 80 units in the Sky Valley, including many self-help houses.
Another set of those is coming to Main Street, as well, where 11 two-story townhouses will be built this year.
When Monroe Family Village is complete, Housing Hope will have more than 150 units of housing in the Sky Valley.
“It’s not to give cheap rent,” said Greenland. “It’s to see families thrive, and where there are kids in the picture, we want them to succeed in school and in life.”