Workforce housing project receives $2 million boost

The funding was part of a package of $47 million in Commerce funding for infrastructure improvements.

Last week, the developer of Creekside Village on Vashon — a 40-unit apartment community promising affordable rents for workforce tenants — received great news: an additional $2 million in funding for the project from the Washington State Department of Commerce.

The funding was part of a package of $47 million in Commerce funding for infrastructure improvements to support 43 construction projects that will provide more than 3,000 units of affordable housing statewide.

Of the 43 funded projects, Creekside Village was one of only 9 projects that received a $2 million award — the largest funding amount in the competitive cycle, which drew 74 applications.

Christopher Bric, president of the Vashon’s Shelter America Group, the nonprofit housing organization behind the project, said in an interview that he was thrilled to have received the funding, explaining that the application to Commerce had been made on his organization’s behalf by King County, who he called an “unwavering and very strong” supporter of his project.

The $2 million grant adds to just over $15 million in low-interest loans from the state and county previously secured for the project. An approximate $5 million conventional first mortgage loan will complete the financing needed for what is now — given recent refinements of cost estimates — a $22 million development, Bric said.

Creekside Village, comprised of three two-story buildings, will be spread out on 2.4 acres of an approximately 7-acre property located at 16816 95th Lane SW, off Gorsuch Road.

This location, Bric has said since first announcing his plans for the project in 2015, is ideally suited for Vashon’s workforce population, senior citizens, single adults, and families with children. The property is within walking distance of Ober Park, the Vashon Library, and the employment/shopping hub of the island.

The need for affordable housing on Vashon is dire and has become more so in recent years, according to Bric and other affordable housing advocates — no new apartments, except for Vashon HouseHold’s Island Center Homes, have been built on the island in years.

Now, Bric said, his project is “full steam ahead.”

Shelter America purchased the property from islander Mike Masi in late December and is currently working through the permitting process with the county, he said.

In 2015, Masi and Shelter America entered into an agreement aimed at the eventual sale of the property — obtaining the required water shares and zoning needed for the development.

The specific parcel where the project is located had two special development conditions as approved by King County, through the community planning process, over 20 years ago, Bric said.

One condition allowed for the development of 12 units per acre, and the second required the development of “mobile homes and manufactured housing.”

In 2017, according to Bric, that second condition was removed by King County, also through a community process, with the stipulation that the site could be developed only for affordable housing. Before that time, either 40 mobile homes or manufactured housing units could have been placed or built on the site, with no affordability requirement.

Bric now expects to break ground on the project in the summer or early fall of 2024, with Creekside Village opening in September or October of 2025.

The property — formerly a small mobile home park owned by Masi — is now emptied of its five former residents, who all received generous financial assistance in securing other housing on Vashon.

Shelter America engaged a national company, as required under the Uniform Relocation Act, to work with local landlords and agencies to secure housing for the former residents, Bric said. Additionally, Bric said, Hilary Emmer, an affordable housing advocate on Vashon, was instrumental in helping the tenants all relocate to other island housing.

“They wanted to stay on the island, and we wanted them to stay on the island,” he said. “It’s a very successful outcome.”

Bric added that Masi’s former tenants will also have a priority opportunity to move back to the newly developed apartment complex if they so choose and qualify for the housing.

The older modular housing left on the property, he said, will be disposed of due to its deteriorated condition.

“The units have seen their serviceable life, and Shelter America is now having the units inspected for disposal,” Bric said.

Who will qualify for housing at Creekside Village? According to Bric, preference will be given to households that currently live on Vashon, have Vashon employment, or have family on the island. Shelter America will work with Vashon Youth & Family Services to facilitate this effort, he added.

Twenty units will be reserved for households at or below 50 percent of area median income, with 20 more reserved for households at or below 60 percent of area median income.

Rents at Creekside Village will range — as per current Housing and Urban Development (HUD)’s calculations for income-limited households and corresponding restricted rent — from $1,284-$1,541 for a one-bedroom apartment; $1,541-1,849 for two bedrooms; and $1,781-$2,137 for three-bedroom units.

The site will also contain 47 parking spaces for residents, in a lot fronting the property, close to Gorsuch Road.

Affordable housing advocates on Vashon have hailed Bric’s plans.

“The affordable housing crisis on Vashon Island is too great to expect an agency like Vashon HouseHold to manage alone,” Jason Johnson, executive director of Vashon HouseHold said, in August. “We need partners like Shelter America and are thrilled that the Creekside Village project is moving forward. This community, especially the island’s workforce and seniors, need those 40 units of deeply affordable housing more than ever before.”

Morgan Brown, chair of the community council’s Vashon-Maury Affordable Housing Committee, concurred, in an interview last August.

“As should be apparent to all, Vashon is in acute need of more housing, particularly the type of workforce housing that [Creekside Village] is going to address,” Brown said. “This isn’t going to solve the problem – it’s too big, with tremendous obstacles – but with 40 units, [it] is significant. Vashon is fortunate that at least this project has managed to overcome those obstacles.”