Demolition earlier this month at the Baker Heights housing development. (Chuck Taylor / Herald file)

Demolition earlier this month at the Baker Heights housing development. (Chuck Taylor / Herald file)

Baker Heights to house Everett schools’ homeless families

The housing authority’s new development will offer families and seniors a place to call home.

EVERETT — Nearly 70 homeless families with children in Everett schools could someday have a home at the new Baker Heights development, according to an agreement between the housing authority, school district and county. In addition, the development will house seniors and an early childhood education and assistance program.

“This is such a great opportunity for some of our families,” said Chad Golden, the Everett School District’s director of categorical programs. “It’s going to give them an opportunity to have some stable housing and get their feet under them.”

The Everett Housing Authority-owned site is in the Delta neighborhood of northeast Everett. The housing authority expects to complete the 105-unit project by the end of 2022.

Funding requirements for the project mean the housing authority can “prioritize” or “target” certain populations, but it can’t guarantee housing for them.

“We will have a tenant selection plan that will prioritize homeless families with children,” said Janinna Attick, senior policy analyst for the housing authority. “Essentially, if we weren’t able to identify a homeless family with children, we would then be able to open that unit up to someone that is homeless but doesn’t necessarily meet the more targeted criteria.”

Last year, roughly 1,100 students in the Everett School District qualified for services under the federal McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, which defines homeless children as “individuals who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence.” The school district provides the services through its Kids in Transition program.

When families enroll their children in the Everett School District, they fill out a housing form which lets the district know if they qualify for services under McKinney-Vento. A district employee in each building connects families with services and helps them find housing.

Most of the district’s families experiencing homelessness stay temporarily with other people, said Golden, who oversees the KIT program and others for the district. A smaller percentage stay in shelters or cars.

“When students are not housed, and they’re jumping around to multiple schools, they lose ground in their learning,” Golden said. “Every time they change schools, they are set back even further.”

The housing authority expects to start taking tenant referrals in about a year but is still working out details of the process.

The deal between the Everett Housing Authority, the Everett School District and the Snohomish County Department of Human Services has been in the works for several years.

In 2018, the agencies signed the original memorandum of understanding, which said the housing authority would build 43 units total. Then, they inked a major amendment in April.

The housing authority agreed to provide 105 units, with 67 meant for homeless families in the Everett School District. Both deals included plans for ECEAP, the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program.

“It’s a significant effort to build affordable housing developments and we need a lot more affordable housing than we have in the community right now,” Attick said. “Anything we can do to increase the supply of affordable housing in our community is really important.”

It’s still unclear what the housing authority will do with 10 acres at the site, which it no longer plans to sell to Washington State University Everett.

Previously, WSU Everett planned to expand its campus at the Baker Heights site. The deal fell apart after WSU Everett told the housing authority it was considering other locations for the expansion. The university later offered to purchase 6½ acres, but the housing authority rejected the offer.

“There is nothing more to update at this point,” Attick said. “Our development team is still working on the master planning process, and that process is still ongoing.”

Katie Hayes: katie.hayes@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @misskatiehayes.

Katie Hayes is a Report for America corps member and writes about issues that affect the working class for The Daily Herald.

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