YWCA adds affordable housing

The YWCA has wrapped up the largest affordable housing purchase in Snohomish County history, to the tune of $25.6 million.

The nonprofit agency bought three apartment buildings in Lynnwood, Mountlake Terrace and south Everett on behalf of families struggling to pay the bills.

With 219 apartments and 538 bedrooms, it’s the most bedrooms the YWCA has ever bought at once for affordable housing.

The price tag sets another milestone.

“In terms of dollars, this is the largest affordable housing project for Snohomish County ever,” said June Robinson, executive director of the Housing Consortium of Everett and Snohomish County.

“It’s not easy to pull one of these things off, and this was a particularly incredible one.”

To buy the complexes, the YWCA put together a creative partnership and a plan to pay back batches of bonds during the next 30 years.

To save money, the Snohomish County Council voted unanimously on Wednesday to team up with the Everett Housing Authority to co-sign on half of the long-term mortgage.

County Executive Aaron Reardon plans to sign the deal as a final step in the purchase.

The move saves millions.

“It’s really a good project and a good thing,” County Council chairman Dave Gossett said. “Basically, at no cost to the taxpayer, we’ve saved nearly $2.5 million.”

As current tenants leave the three apartment complexes, low-income families screened by the YWCA – including many single mothers and their children – will be able to move in.

A family of four earning $39,000 or less per year will qualify for the housing at reduced rents, said Angelynn Talcott, YWCA associate director of community affairs.

Currently, some of the candidate families live at two YWCA emergency shelters in Lynnwood – Pathways for Women and Trinity Place. Those places offer just 18-month stays, Talcott said.

For those accepted as tenants in the three new complexes, there won’t be a deadline for moving out. The apartments are meant to be permanent housing and affordable.

In addition to cheers over having more apartments for people in need, YWCA officials also are excited about using a 10,000-square-foot community center at one of the three complexes, Somerset Village apartments.

“Somerset is the centerpiece with the community center,” Talcott said. “The community center is sitting empty right now.”

The agency plans to use the space for classes on parenting and money management, job training, support groups for depression and domestic violence, and mental health counseling.

“For the women and families we serve, there are far more resources for stabilizing their lives and moving forward with jobs and education,” YWCA CEO Sue Sherbrooke said. “Affordable housing is fundamental to that.”

The need is great, said Robinson. More than 54,000 Snohomish County households are believed to be living on the edge because they spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing.

“To be able to purchase three apartment complexes at the same time gives our whole stock in Snohomish County a huge boost,” Robinson said.

Reporter Jeff Switzer: 425-339-3452 or jswitzer@heraldnet.com.

Big buy for YWCA

Victorian Woods: 66 units, Mountlake Terrace, $5.85 million.

Somerset Village: 64 units, Lynnwood, $10.25 million.

Wear to Live: 89 units, Everett, $9.5 million.

Total: $25.6 million

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