Vashon HouseHold Programs
In 2001 Vashon Household engaged Common Ground; a Seattle based non-profit developer to examine options. Vashon Household and Common Ground partnered and submitted our first HUD (Housing and Urban Development) application seeking funds for senior housing. In 2003, through a combination of HUD, King County, and Washington State grants, the J.G. Commons apartment building for low-income seniors came to fruition. The building features 21 one-bedroom apartments targeted for singles and couples. J.G. Commons also includes a community room, lounge area, conference room, on-site laundry, and an elevator for wheelchair accessibility. Seniors 62 years of age and older who meet HUD’s income guidelines may be eligible. HUD’s 202 program provides rent subsidies for all residents, ensuring that no one pays more than 30% of his or her income for rent.
Vashon Household examined the gaps in housing needs and the next group that emerged were individuals and families who were not looking to buy homes, but who needed a quality affordable rental with subsidies. In 2004, with coordination at Common Ground, Vashon Household created a private/public partnership under the IRS regulated tax credit housing program. Essentially, private investors in combination with King County and Washington State funds provided the money to build apartments. The private investors would be the majority owner of the project for 15 years and receive tax breaks during this time. After 15 years the project reverts full ownership back to Vashon Household. This creative thinking in financing resulted in Eernisse Apartments, a 26 unit town home style complex completed in 2007. The project is the first apartment complex in the community built with families in mind. The project consists of one, two, and three-bedroom units -- the only three-bedroom apartments on Vashon Island. Eernisse is home to many families who had been priced out of the sky-rocketing rental market. All units are affordable to households that meet the federal definition of “low income" and half are affordable to those considered “very low income." There are 13 “low income” households who pay approximately 20% below market rate rent and 13 “very low income” families with the greatest need who are provided permanent rental assistance through Project Based Section 8 Vouchers. This rental subsidy ensures that these 13 households will pay no more than 30% of monthly income for rent.
Recent Successes and Current Challenges
In December of 2010 opened our first project targeting homeless persons of Vashon Island. A 20 unit apartment complex known as the Davis-Freeman apartments became available for purchase. Davis-Freeman had been the housing of last resort for many people. The complex had outdated electric, leaky roofs, and tarps were often part of tenant protection from the elements. The three buildings were in poor condition, having suffered years of neglect inside and out. The property was at risk of being sold for more affluent private development and, though substandard, this lower cost housing would be lost on the island. Vashon Household received funding from King County and the State of Washington to purchase and rehabilitate this apartment complex that was renamed Mukai Commons; full rehabilitation was completed in November 2010. A necessary element for funding this project required 5 units of housing for homeless persons or families; this was new terrain for Vashon Household. Vashon Household entered into a formal relationship with Vashon Youth and Family Services (VYFS) who would provide support to these homeless persons and families. The provision of supportive services to homeless persons is proven to be the most effective way to promote housing stability. At Mukai Commons, Vashon Household is now helping the most in need from our community. In combination with VYFS supports, VHH currently provides 14 of 20 units to homeless persons, because the demand by homeless people was so great that an additional 9 units were added to our homeless unit inventory. The waitlist at Mukai Commons is still 30 deep for other homeless individuals on the island. VHH still needs resources to help create addtional units for this population.