Supporters and opponents of a moratorium on supportive housing in single-family areas packed the Everett City Council chambers during a public hearing Wednesday night. (Lizz Giordano / The Herald)

Supporters and opponents of a moratorium on supportive housing in single-family areas packed the Everett City Council chambers during a public hearing Wednesday night. (Lizz Giordano / The Herald)

Everett residents weigh in on a ban of supportive housing

The moratorium has put on hold a plan to build 34 units for homeless public school students.

EVERETT — Critics and proponents of a moratorium on supportive housing packed the Everett City Council chambers during a public hearing Wednesday night.

Public comments were split over an emergency ban affecting single-family zones, which passed the council unanimously on June 12.

The move was taken after the Everett School District and Housing Hope proposed to build affordable apartments for homeless students in the Port Gardner neighborhood.

The school district in May agreed to a 75-year lease with the housing nonprofit for a 3-acre plot in the 3600 block of Norton Avenue. Preliminary designs call for 34 units of housing for low- to moderate-income families with students enrolled in Everett public schools. The building could include an early childhood center as large as 10,000 square feet.

When the plan was announced, it was criticized by some in the Port Gardner neighborhood who worried the project would negatively impact the neighborhood and take away green space. They also felt the school district and Housing Hope blindsided the neighborhood with the proposal.

Resident Michelle Fessler argued against the moratorium and for the Housing Hope project Wednesday night.

“We need to place people above property value,” she said.

There is plenty of green space already in the area, Fessler added.

Amy Frost, who lives down the street from the site, urged the council to keep the ban, saying that pushing higher density projects into single-family zones is problematic.

“Downtown has plenty of vacant buildings,” Frost said.

During more than an hour of public comments, audience members on both sides clapped to show support for speakers.

“We did not choose this location, it just happened to be where surplus land was located,” said Fred Safstrom, chief executive officer for Housing Hope.

Supportive housing is very difficult to do, even with a donation of land, he said.

The Everett school district had 1,266 students who experienced some degree of homelessness last year, according to data from the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Councilmember Jeff Moore, who is the executive director of finance for the school district, recused himself from the council discussion and public hearing.

The moratorium lasts for six months but can be extended.

Lizz Giordano: 425-374-4165; egiordano@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @lizzgior.

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