Habitat, city break ground for new highlands development
June 16, 2009
By Warren Kagarise
Meet the Taltons, a family of five that will soon be residents of the Issaquah Highlands.
Alissa Talton had no idea she would be moving to the hillside community until three weeks ago, when Habitat for Humanity officials surprised her at her parents’ Carnation home. Habitat officials presented Talton with a balloon and said her family had been chosen to live in a planned Issaquah Highlands development — the first Habitat houses to be built in Issaquah in 15 years. Talton was speechless. Her husband, a deployed Navy reservist, watched the event unfold over the messaging service Skype.
“I started crying and shaking,” Alissa Talton recalled. “I was so excited.”
She joined city officials and Habitat for Humanity of East King County representatives June 11 to break ground for the new development, five duplexes that will house 10 families. The late afternoon groundbreaking was ceremonial; volunteers will start construction at the site next month.
Tom Granger, executive director of the local Habitat branch, lauded city officials and highlands developer Port Blakely Communities for supporting the project. Habitat purchased the land with help from the city, Port Blakely and A Regional Coalition for Housing, an organization of Eastside cities and King County that works to increase the supply of affordable housing.“This is an opportunity we’ve been talking about for a long time,” Granger said.
He credited the city and Port Blakely for taking steps to increase the availability of affordable housing.
“I have felt nothing but welcome since the first time we discussed this project,” he said.
Volunteers will construct five duplexes along a stretch of Northeast Magnolia Street near Northeast Logan Street. On a clear day, the Olympic Mountains are visible from the site.
“The view from here is absolutely magnificent,” Granger said. “We have God to thank for that.”
Construction will take place in two phases. Residents are set to move into the first houses early next year. Habitat officials plan to complete the project by 2012.
The homes will range from 1,000 to 1,400 square feet, and from two to four bedrooms. Volunteers will complete 90 percent of the labor. Families in the Habitat program are required to contribute 500 hours of sweat equity toward their new homes.
Mayor Ava Frisinger said Habitat would find many volunteers in Issaquah. She talked with members of several Issaquah churches, who said they were interested in contributing to the construction effort.
“There are an awful lot of people who want to come up here and build houses,” Frisinger said.
Talton said she and her family are ready to volunteer. Her husband, Mikel, is a Navy reservist stationed in the United Arab Emirates. Her husband left for his deployment in January. Talton and her three children — Mikayla, 14, Hayleigh, 3, and Isaiah, 2 — have been living with her parents in Carnation.
Talton said she looks forward to the stability of owning her own home. She said living in Issaquah appeals to her because her family lives in the area as well.
“I know my kids will grow up here,” she said.
Habitat homeowners are chosen based on their need and ability to pay the mortgage. They earn $20,400 to $40,700 — less than half of the 2008 King County median income for a family of four. To earn their homes, they must contribute the volunteer hours by working on their house or another Habitat property. Homeowners are required to live or work in King County for at least a year.
Habitat homes are sold at cost — about $100,000. Homeowners repay no-interest loans and Habitat retains ownership of the land.
Lola Reyes visited the development site two nights before the groundbreaking ceremony. She said she looks forward to moving with her two sons from Bellevue to the highlands.
“Everything is beautiful,” she said. “It’s a very clean, family-oriented, safe area.”
Reyes learned her family had been selected to live in the development via a letter from Habitat officials. When she plucked the letter from her post office box, she said she steeled herself for the worst.
Exhausted from moving the day before, Reyes was ready to toss the bad news into a nearby recycling bin. She could not believe her good fortune as she began to read the letter.
“It was like hitting the lotto,” she said.
Reach Reporter Warren Kagarise at 392-6434, ext. 234, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment on this story at www.issaquahpress.com.