EVERETT — With more than half of the homes at the aging Baker Heights complex already vacated, the Everett Housing Authority has finalized plans for the 15-acre site.
On Monday, the housing authority board approved a proposal to build up to 200 new units on the property after existing buildings are razed. The remaining land, about two thirds, would be offered at fair market value to Washington State University to expand its branch campus.
“This is a momentous occasion,” said Maddy Metzger-Utt, board chairwoman, after the unanimous vote. “We’ve been working for years on this.”
Baker Heights, which is in northeast Everett near Wiggums Hollow Park, is scheduled for demolition. Federal funds cannot be used to renovate the 244-unit complex, which dates back to World War II.
With Monday’s vote, the housing authority plans to build 60 units of subsidized housing on the site. Rents would be based on the income of each household. Homeless families with children enrolled in the Everett School District would be given priority for placement.
Up to another 140 units of mixed-income housing also will be constructed. They would serve families making 30 to 80 percent of the area median income, according to Ashley Lommers-Johnson, executive director of the housing authority.
“The more units we can develop, the more cost-effective it becomes,” he said.
The leftover land then would be sold to WSU, including a portion of Wiggums Park owned by the housing authority.
During the meeting, Paul Pitre, chancellor of the branch campus, said the land presented an opportunity for the school to grow. He said the university will need a new building in the near future.
“What we’ve been focusing on is STEM education, with the heavy emphasis on that ‘E’ in engineering,” Pitre said. “And we want to continue to do that and expand the opportunities for the citizens throughout this region.”
Original plans for the redeveloped housing complex called for only 60 new units, with the rest of the land being sold to either WSU or another party. At a public meeting in September, Lommers-Johnson announced the housing authority wanted to build more homes on the site “because Everett needs more housing.”
Members of the Delta Neighborhood Association criticized the proposal, saying there was already a disproportionate number of low-income housing and housing authority units in the neighborhood compared to the rest of the city. The association also said the time and notice to comment on the changes was inadequate.
After that pushback, along with a request from Mayor Cassie Franklin, the board delayed the vote on the future of Baker Heights until Monday.
“Many of us support the (housing authority) developing more low-income housing in Everett as a whole because it is desperately needed, but not necessarily their efforts to concentrate their developments in Delta,” wrote Mary Fosse, who chairs the association, in an email Monday. “This neighborhood already ranks as one of the poorest and most diverse neighborhoods in the city, and we have the poorest school in the city that’s struggling.”
She also cited the low-income housing complex being added in the new Riverview development.
Last year, the housing authority began relocating Baker Heights residents. The authority wants to have all families moved by October 2019. Construction is expected to start in spring 2020.
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