Construction of affordable housing units on Catholic Charities’ Sisters of the Holy Names property is seen through the forest west of Spokane. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

Affordable homes going up in Spokane with little fanfare

By Nicholas Deshais, The Spokesman-Review

SPOKANE — Behind a dense stand of trees and on the former site of Spokane’s oldest convent, hundreds of homes for the elderly, working families and chronically homeless are going up with little fanfare.

The city of Spokane recently issued building permits for 76 units of housing built by Catholic Charities for the chronically homeless. The housing will add to the 240 affordable units already under construction by the nonprofit’s development partner, the Inland Group, on the same land once occupied by the nuns.

The site will also house Rising Strong, a partnership between Empire Health Foundation and Catholic Charities offering support for parents in danger of losing their child to the foster care system, primarily because of housing status.

“I’m willing to bet that there’s no homeless housing like this anywhere else in the United States,” said Rob McCann, president and CEO of Catholic Charities. “Our hope is that these low-income families are going to have one of the nicest places to live that they’ve ever had.”

In all, 316 affordable units will sit nestled behind 31 acres of public land managed by the city’s parks department, a short walk from the “moose and deer and turkeys down by the river,” as McCann said.

The site, called Holy Names Haven, is the fifth such project by the nonprofit. Other similar housing projects built by Catholic Charities for the homeless are Father Bach Haven, Buder Haven, Pope Francis Haven and the Marilee Apartments.

The Sisters sold 34 acres to Catholic Charities last year for $3.6 million, according to Spokane County property records. Empire Health Foundation provided $1.6 million for the purchase.

Six new buildings have been issued permits. An art studio and some administrative offices of the sisters will remain on the property under a rent-free agreement with Catholic Charities.

The city bought the park property in April for $2.65 million using Spokane County Conservation Futures funds.

Garrett Jones, planning and development manager with the city parks department, said the city will reimburse the county fund with $2 million in state grants aimed at protecting aquatic land and water access.

The city has plans to build a new parking lot and trailhead with better signs on the southwest end of the TJ Meenach Bridge.

The city’s Parks Board has discussed running the Centennial Trail along the river frontage. The board also has reviewed concepts to connect the trail via bridge and switchback trails to Summit Drive near its intersection with North Ash Street.

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