New low-income housing project for the highlands

Habitat for Humanity this week confirmed plans to build 10 homes in the Issaquah Highlands for low income families.

Habitat for Humanity this week confirmed plans to build 10 homes in the Issaquah Highlands for low income families.

Habitat Construction Manager Lee Brannam told The Reporter that they hoped to begin work in April of this year, and suggested 2012 as the completion date for the five duplex, 10 home project.

The Habitat site is the latest in an ongoing program of affordable housing projects approved by the City of Issaquah, as it seeks to fulfill its mandate for a minimum of 10 percent of housing in new developments to be made available to low income earners.

Habitat for Humanity completed the purchase of the one acre property in recent weeks, made possible by donations and grant funding.

The property is on the west side of Northeast Magnolia Street, between Northeast Logan and Northeast Mulberry Streets.

Habitat for Humanity is an internationally recognized non-profit group with a stated mission to eliminate poverty housing and homelessness from the world, and to make decent shelter a matter of conscience and action.

The latest project continues Issaquah’s relationship with Habitat, following the city’s donation of surplus utility land on Front Street to the group nearly two decades ago.

Habitat built two houses on that site, near the intersection with 2nd Avenue Southeast.

Brannam said that he would work closely with the Issaquah Highlands Community Association and developer Port Blakely Communities regarding establishing architectural guidelines.

The Habitat homes will be built to a 4-star Built Green standard, a program that evaluates housing construction in its environmental sensitivity to water conservation, energy efficiency, and indoor air quality.

The Habitat project will adhere to the established guidelines of the Issaquah Highlands Architectural Review Committee.

Habitat’s purchase of the land was in keeping with Port Blakely’s commitment to set land in the highlands aside to fill the need of low income families.

In a 2006 meeting of the City of Issaquah Economic Vitality Task Force, members stated that “housing costs in Issaquah are increasingly exceeding the financial reach of many low- to moderate-wage workers, and thus are negatively impacting the quality of life in the community.”

The City of Issaquah defines housing as affordable if it costs no more than 30 percent of the family’s income.

East King County Habitat for Humanity Executive Director Tom Granger said this week that the city, Port Blakely, and the Issaquah Highlands Community Association had been very supportive and welcoming, and that the inability of people to live and own homes in the areas they grew up in was bad for communities and society.

“We have essentially driven low income people out of our communities,” he said. “The people that communities rely on to sustain standards of living, whether they be hairdressers or farm workers, typically hourly wage earners, are on the highways driving for hours because they can’t afford to live anywhere near where they work.”

In May the Issaquah City Council approved a YWCA project featuring 155 rental housing units as well as a 4,000-square-foot community services campus.

Issaquah City Mayor Ava Frisinger said this week the problem of wage earners not being able to afford housing in eastern Washington was increasing every year.

“We are seeing more families having to spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing,” she said. “That means that there is less left over for them to spend on vital services like health care. “18 months ago, the median price for a house in east King County was more than $600,000.”

To qualify to buy a Habitat for Humanity home, a family must earn 50 percent or less of the area median income, which is taken from a number of Eastside cities.

The area median income for a family of 2 is $65,000.

Families must also be able to demonstrate a stable employment history, and cannot have owned a home before.