Town Center could provide housing for local workforce
July 8, 2009
By J.B. Wogan
This is the first installment of a three-part series that examines affordable housing in the proposed Town Center.
Twenty years ago, Candy Hammer was a custodian at Issaquah Valley Elementary School, a native of Issaquah, who wanted to raise her family there, too. But the cost of housing, even for rent, was too expensive.
“I worked every day,” Hammer said. “I just had a job where I couldn’t get to an income that could afford a home in Issaquah.”
The identical problem exists for some on the plateau, but there is reason to believe school employees and other people who work in Sammamish could one day live in Sammamish, too.
The city is planning to have between 200 and 400 affordable housing units, rental and permanent housing in its future Town Center. The center is about a 240-acre area, anchored by Southeast 4th Street and 228th Avenue, designed to accommodate up to 2,000 residential units, plus retail and office space. So far, the city has defined affordable housing in Sammamish as a home affordable to someone making 80 percent of the median income in King County. For a family of three, median is about $60,000 per year.
The Town Center Master Plan, adopted in June 2008, requires that 10 percent of all residential units in Town Center be affordable.
The city is now hashing out strategies to entice developers and property owners to go beyond the 10 percent minimum, although nothing official has been approved.
Community Development Director Kamuron Gurol has said employees in the public and private sectors of Sammamish are likely to live in the Town Center’s affordable housing units. Gurol said he expected some single parents would live in those units.
Stacy Herman, deputy city clerk, is both public sector employee and a single parent. And if the affordable housing units were in Sammamish today, she said she would be looking to move here.
“I think it would be nice to be that close. The schools up here are good schools,” said Herman, who has a 13-year-old daughter.
Herman is looking at affordable housing options, but she’s scoping out North Bend, where she currently rents.
“You get to the point where your salary is enough,” Herman said. “It would be nice to have a yard, instead of having to drive to a park or a river.”
Amy Jeffery, who works in the city’s permit center, said she would like to own a home in Sammamish, if it were feasible.
“I think there’s a stigma around people who live in an apartment,” said Jeffery, who rents an apartment in The Knolls at Inglewood Hill.
Jeffery said her son plays little league baseball and youth football, but his interactions with peers are limited. He doesn’t live in a residential neighborhood with his classmates or teammates.
Jeffery used to commute to work from Woodinville and said there are definite benefits to living in the city where you work.
“It’s made it way better. I can go pick (my son) up, and take him to work, or bring him home if I need to,” she said.
Jeffery said even the rental situation in Sammamish is sparse. In terms of child-friendly apartments, The Knolls at Inglewood Hill was the only place that fit within the Lake Washington School District’s borders. There were a couple options on the south end of the city, but that would have required switching her son to a different school and different school district.
Maybe one day Herman and Jeffery will have anecdotes like Candy Hammer.
In 1992, representatives from Habitat for Humanity of East King County came to Hammer’s school to say she qualified for a home they were building in Issaquah. It would cost $100,000 with no interest on payments.
“There were 85 screaming women (co-workers), jumping up and down, because I finally got my house,” Hammer recalled.
The home gave her security and provided options for her and her family, she said.
Reporter J.B. Wogan can be reached at 392-6434, ext. 247, or firstname.lastname@example.org. To comment on this story, visit www.SammamishReview.com.