A proposed partnership between an Everett non-profit organization and the Edmonds School District could mean affordable housing for some of the district’s hundreds of students experiencing homelessness.
Housing Hope and the Housing Authority of Snohomish County (HASCO) are in talks with the district to develop a 40- to-50-unit affordable housing complex to house homeless students and their families. Per the proposal, the complex would be developed on the 1.8-acre, district-owned Scriber Baseball field, located along 58th Avenue West and adjacent to Cedar Valley Community School in Lynnwood.
Nearly 500 students in the district have been classified as homeless, but Superintendent Gustavo Balderas said the real number could be much higher.
“In any community, there’s never enough housing for our kids,” he said. “That’s one of our goals — to make sure we identify all of our (homeless) students.”
Under the McKinney-Vento Act, students experiencing homelessness have the right to attend either their local area school or the school they were enrolled in when they were last permanently housed. They also have the right to transportation to the school of origin.
According to the proposal, the district would lease the property to Housing Hope for $1 per year for 75 years. The development would provide priority housing to families with McKinney Vento student(s) enrolled in the district, those with McKinney Vento student(s) enrolled at public schools in other school districts, and any student meeting low income and other requirements to which the development is subject.
“All of this is built around prioritizing local kids (and) prioritizing families that are in (the district) now,” said Housing Hope CEO Fred Safstrom.
For roughly a year, the district has been working with the City of Lynnwood to find ways to create housing for students. In 2019, the city was looking to purchase the Rodeo Inn motel (now a Super 8), located on Highway 99. However, city officials backed out of the negotiations once they learned the cost to redevelop the structure exceeded what they were willing to pay. During its Oct. 27 business meeting, the Edmonds School Board was briefed by Housing Hope and HASCO on the new proposal to house homeless students and their families.
Permanent housing could also mean the difference between finishing school or dropping out. Recent data from the district showed that the graduation rate for homeless students during the 2019-20 school year was 62%. The rate for the district overall last year was 82.9%.
“Housing is such a critical piece to education and stability and future success and the sooner a student can get into a permanent housing situation just that much better chance they have for success,” Safstrom said.
Additionally, Safstrom said the apartments would be supported by renter vouchers, which would provide households with affordable rent and after a year. However, if the household still has students enrolled in the district, they could opt to stay. Should a family choose to leave, they would be able to take their voucher and move to private landlord housing, paying no more rent than they were paying in this housing hope project, he said.
“What that does is, it gives us pretty strong assurance that there’s going to be a turn of households in these units so that we will be continually serving new households every year,” Safstrom said.
Financing for the project would come from multiple sources, primarily a 9% longet-term housing tax credit from the Washington State Housing Finance Commission. According to Safstrom, the funds from the tax credit would cover 60% to 70% of the project’s development. The process is highly competitive, but Safstrom said Housing Hope has been successful in the past since it has experience serving high need households. Housing Hope would also seek other funding sources like the Washington State Housing Trust Fund, he added.
The baseball field where the project would be built is currently used by Pacific Little League, but Safstrom said the league is supportive of the project. Before breaking ground, a land-use designation change would be required from the City of Lynnwood and that would add an extra year in the project’s timeline. Construction would begin in 2023, with project completion in 2024.
–By Cody Sexton