EVERETT — Plans for Baker Heights are being reworked to substantially increase the number of affordable housing units to replace those being lost as the aging complex heads toward demolition.
At a meeting Wednesday night, Ashley Lommers-Johnson, executive director of the Everett Housing Authority, presented three options being considered for the 244-unit public housing complex in north Everett’s Delta Neighborhood.
“We have basically moved away from the idea of 60 units because Everett needs more housing,” Lommers-Johnson. said.
Due to its poor condition, the housing authority is unable to use federal funds to renovate Baker Heights. The complex is mostly composed of converted barracks that date back to World War II.
Original plans for Baker Heights, which had been approved by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, had the housing authority retaining 3.6 acres on the southern edge of the site. That’s where the agency planned to build a new 60-unit affordable housing complex. The remainder of the 15-acre site would then have been sold on the open market.
The new options presented Wednesday would more than double or triple the number of units the housing authority could build. One plan replaces more than 80 percent of the units being lost. If one of these options is chosen, the housing authority would hold on to more land.
Two of the alternatives also allow for a negotiated sale, at fair market value, of the remaining land to Washington State University to expand its branch campus in Everett. The housing authority owns the southern portion of Wiggums Hollow Park, which would be included in the sale. If the land is not sold to WSU, the land would be placed on the open market. If that happens, Lommers-Johnson predicted a housing developer would most likely purchase the land.
The proceeds from any sale would be used to acquire more property for the housing authority.
Whatever plan is chosen, the housing authority is planning to build up to four stories on the site. Some units would be reserved for families experiencing homelessness with students in the Everett School District and for seniors who qualify for subsidized housing.
The housing authority is also planning an on-site space for an Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program.
Some at the meeting, who live adjacent to the property, were unhappy a four-story building could be constructed near their homes.
Members of the Delta Neighborhood Association criticized the proposed increase of new units saying there was already a disproportionate number of low-income housing and housing authority units in their neighborhood compared to the rest of the city.
“This is not a resistance to affordable housing overall, but an effort to ensure that Everett enjoys a more equitable distribution of low-income housing to create more vibrant neighborhoods with a broad spectrum of socio-economic levels,” wrote Ryan Weber, a representative from the neighborhood, in an email Thursday.
He said the association would prefer an option that includes 60 new units with the remaining land being sold to WSU.
With the proceeds from the land sale going to buy additional property, there would be no net loss of affordable housing in the city, Weber said.
The neighborhood association also wants the housing authority to retain the Friendship Garden, which is located at the northeast corner of the property. The garden is shared by Baker Heights and Delta residents.
Lommers-Johnson said it was possible the garden could be moved.
Last fall the housing authority began relocating Baker Heights residents using housing vouchers which can be used in the private market. According to Erica Dias, a relocation manager, 141 households have so far been moved. The agency’s goal is to relocate the other 103 families before October of next year.
Lommers-Johnson said the housing authority intends to replace all the units lost when Baker Heights closes.
The housing authority’s board will have the final say on the options. They are expected to vote Monday on the plans. Whatever changes are passed by the board will have to be approved by HUD.
Lizz Giordano: 425-374-4165; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @lizzgior.