YWCA officials answer questions about housing project

April 6, 2009

By Warren Kagarise


A proposed affordable housing complex in the Issaquah Highlands. SMR Architects

YWCA and city officials continued their rollout last week of a proposal for an affordable housing complex that would bring 400 residents to the Issaquah Highlands.

YWCA Family Village at Issaquah would include 146 rental apartments for tenants earning 50 percent or less of King County’s median income. Officials answered questions about the project at a March 30 open house.

Plans call for the YWCA complex to be built on about two acres at the corner of Highlands Drive Northeast and Northeast High Street. YWCA officials hope to begin construction in April 2010 and open the complex the following year. Most residents will earn 50 percent or less of King County’s median income — $40,700 for a family of four. Linda Hall, director of housing development for the local YWCA association, said a typical resident could be “a medical technician who takes your blood pressure, who happens to be a single mom who makes $16 an hour” and cannot afford market-rate housing.

The project would also anchor a cluster of “green” buildings: A complex of energy-efficient townhouses known as zHome is planned for a parcel near Family Village. YWCA officials enlisted a Seattle architecture firm to design the complex with environmentally sustainable features.

The project “is unique in that it’s a brighter shade of green,” said Poppi Handy, an associate with SMR Architects.

Plans call for a mixture of studio apartments and one-, two-, and three-bedroom units divided among three buildings. The design includes a childcare facility, a community center and offices for YWCA employees.

Hall said Family Village would be open to families, disabled people and seniors. About one-third of the tenants will be classified as very low-income earners, or a family of four that earns $24,400 annually. Other units will be available for tenants who earn up to $48,840 for a family of four. Five units will be set aside for people making the transition from homelessness into permanent housing.

YWCA staff members will review applications. Potential tenants will undergo a criminal background check. Hall said her organization would likely begin advertising the units about six months before the complex opens.

Cheri Kilty, YWCA East King County regional director, said Family Village would also offer classes and programs designed to aid residents. Kilty said some of the services offered at a similar YWCA housing complex in Redmond include childcare and legal assistance.

Eco-friendly features incorporated into the Family Village design include water-saving fixtures, Handy said. Rainwater will be collected and reused for irrigation at the site. Plans call for the complex to save 25 percent more electricity than required by city codes. Buildings would include pitched roofs built to someday accommodate photovoltaic panels.

Brad Liljequist, the city’s project manager for Family Village, said the proposal is in the midst of the permit-approval process.

The open house was part of a campaign launched in mid-2007 that includes meetings and updates in the monthly community newspaper. Hall said the outreach effort is designed to answer questions about the project.

Chris Hawkins, a resident of the Crofton Springs neighborhood who attended the open house, said he looks forward to a proposed pedestrian bridge that would link highlands neighborhoods to the Metro Transit Park & Ride.

“I see a lot of real positives about this development,” he said.

He complimented design features he said would tie the complex to the surrounding neighborhood.

“It looks just like a lot of other highlands communities, but with a little different population mix,” he said.

Reach Reporter Warren Kagarise at 392-6434, ext. 234, or wkagarise@isspress.com. Comment on this story at www.issaquahpress.com.

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