CHELAN—The Chelan Valley Housing Trust held a ceremonial groundbreaking for their first community, Emerson Village, on Friday June 12th. The group of supporters, sporting COVID-19 masks, included Mayor Bob Goedde, city employees, community donors, CVHT Board Members, volunteers and curious onlookers.
Executive Director Mike Cooney kicked off the event with heartfelt words of thanks to all who helped the nonprofit organization achieve this milestone in making affordable homes a reality in the Chelan Valley.
“To everyone that asks me where our property is located, I say it is on the corner of Hope and Unity,” began Cooney. “That’s because it took everyone’s belief, vision, money, and hard work to take this idea—one that had been batted around for years—and make it come to fruition in what we’re celebrating today—Chelan Valley’s first affordable housing community.”
Situated on the corner of East Chelan Avenue and North Emerson Street, Emerson Village will be a 5-townhome development. Each of the five townhomes will be two stories, with two bedrooms and 1.5 baths, and will sell for $200,000.
The builder, K&L homes in Chelan owned by Kevin Aho, is making an in-kind donation with below market rate construction costs and will begin excavation in the coming week. Move-in is expected before the end of the year.
CVHT President Tim Hollingsworth spoke to the importance of this development not only to the families who move in here but to the community at large. “Emerson Village will allow five families to develop roots in town and bring the kind of energy into the neighborhood that makes Chelan the special place we all know it to be.”
Hollingsworth reminisced on how the original property owner of the site, Steve Kline, had been a proponent of affordable housing at city council meetings many years prior. Through a chain of events, the homestead was sold to a Seattle-area family who owns a second home in Chelan. Advocates of affordable housing themselves, they in turn sold the Kline home and .19-acre property to the housing trust at below market value. The home was razed in a controlled burn last fall.
“I thank not only the most current owners of the property but also Steve Kline, whom I am thanking posthumously, for giving the clarion call to affordable housing,” began Hollingsworth. “The fact that Steve’s homestead is now the site of Emerson Village, makes our first step in affordable housing even more momentous. We’ve come full circle.”
An independent 2018 study, “Chelan Valley Housing Affordability Needs Assessment,” showed 80 affordable homes were needed immediately to help bridge the housing gap. As she addressed the audience, CVHT Executive Administrator Rachael Goldie proved the reality of that stat with her own numbers: 20 homebuyer applications had been submitted for the five townhomes and three were already in the pre-approval stage—even before the first spade of dirt had been turned.
Waving the townhome sales flyer overhead, Goldie, a Chelan native who returned to her hometown after college said, “The pent-up demand for affordable housing here is huge. I ask all of you to get the word out and encourage the people you know, who make $53,460 to $88,660, to apply.” The real estate flyer, in both English and Spanish, is available onsite.
The first person to break ground during the event was CVHT Board Member Charlie Guildner, President and CEO of North Cascades Bank, which is financing the $1 million construction loan for the project. “My wife and I are relative newcomers to Chelan, having lived here for two and a half years,” began Guildner.
“I first heard about the Chelan land trust opportunity from Mike over a glass of wine at the Vogue and was quick to get North Cascades Bank onboard. Having been involved in lending solutions for community land trust projects in both Bellingham and Seattle, I’ve seen firsthand what a difference they bring to the community.”
In taking questions from the media after the groundbreaking, Cooney looked at the COVID-19 mask-clad group still milling around and remarked, “I’ve got to say, probably one of the toughest jobs I’ve ever taken on is fundraising during a pandemic. And I want to emphasize that, by and large, this development is being funded by the goodness of the community through these donations.”
Cooney said the city and county had stepped in to help, yet explained, “There are no taxes levied on people to build Emerson Village. Your property tax is not going up, your sales tax is not going up. And I just want to get the word out that with 3 or 4 projects coming up in the next two years, we are continually looking to increase our funds to buy that next piece of property.”
As on cue, a community member walked up from the crowd and handed Cooney an envelope. Inside was a check for $600. The handshake and smile that passed between them said it all as they stood there, on the corner of Hope and Unity.
The housing trust’s foundation donors include Karen Feek, Bob and Rosemary May, Goodfellow Brothers, Campbell’s Resort, Lake Chelan Wine and Jazz Festival, Guy Evans Real Estate and North Cascades Bank.
For information on the housing trust and how to donate money or land, serve on the board, volunteer, or submit a homebuyer application visit chelanvalleyhousing.org