Affordable housing presentation set for tonight (Thursday)

Vashon HouseHold is ready to present its next potential affordable housing project to the community.

Earlier this year, King County’s Department of Community and Human Services put out a request for information in unincorporated rural areas that may benefit from the construction of additional housing. As the region’s growing affordability burden worsens, the county’s Comprehensive Plan seeks to ease land use restrictions, a move that would address the situation by permitting the development of new affordable housing models.

“What they’re attempting to do is find ways to lower costs in terms of density, in terms of price per unit,” said Chris Szala, executive director of Vashon HouseHold, of the county’s efforts.

According to Szala, construction of a single, standard housing complex alone costs somewhere between $250,000 to $300,000 per building. The project proposed on Vashon, at a location along the highway just south of town, would only cost an estimated $160,000 per building.

Many of the savings can be attributed to the units inside: micro units, 40 or so in all, each containing a high-efficiency private bath and kitchenette in 325 square feet, split among five buildings. A common house would have a centralized laundromat and shared kitchens.

“Everything is moving toward smaller in affordable housing,” said Szala. “In the community is where people live.”

The project proposal is distinguished by a commitment to green technology, such as the use of solar panels and the installation of a rain bank system, which would collect water for waste and irrigation. Impacting the environment as minimally as possible has been one of the main goals of the project’s scope for some time.

“It’s trying to be a very environmentally responsible way to house people in need,” said Szala.

The proposed build site has five water shares through Water District 19. Each share, specific to that location, allows for the maximum use of 800 gallons per day. But Szala said that the current design would not utilize all five shares.

“We ran it based on [a design] even without a rain bank, and it still comes to about 3 ½ shares [in total],” he said.

As for what’s ahead, Szala said that he should know by the fall if an award from King County will allow for the project to move forward.If the county awards the project, Vashon HouseHold could begin construction by next summer.

“We look at this as sort of a first meeting and of course [as a way] to get feedback. We’re hoping for something a little bit constructive in terms of style, things like that,” said Szala, adding that the public will be made aware of progress and updates as they come.

The presentation will be held from 7 to 8 p.m. tonight, Sept. 6, at the Methodist church.

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