City taking a look at modular housing

Helping homeless people get off the street.

That’s the idea behind a pilot program that has paired the King County Assessor’s Office and Valley Cities Counseling and Consultation and possibly other partners to settle from eight to 13 modular housing units on land Valley Cities owns next to its Phoenix Rising facility on I Street Northeast.

On Monday, Bailey Stober, director of communications and external relations for the King County Assessor’s Office, and Ed Walker, policy director for the Assessor’s office, described the project to members of the Auburn City Council to gauge the city’s willingness to be a potential partner.

Already, a feasibility study of the site is underway and the partnership has secured a $3 million commitment from the Washington State House and Senate to buy the units for this site and others elsewhere at $70,000 to $100,000 each, if and when lawmakers approve the state capital budget, possibly by December, Stober said.

Should the City of Auburn choose to participate, it would work with the assessor’s office to secure financing for ongoing operating costs and help expedite permits and zoning changes.

Stober said the proposed units are 10 by 20 feet, steel-framed, stackable and can be combined into any combination to maximize the space. They offer their own sleeping and bathroom facilities, come in any color, are compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act, meet Labor and Industry and safety regulations and have a life span of 150 years.

The developer, Blokable, Inc. of Vancouver, Wash., which makes the modular units, would work with Valley Cities architect to develop the site layout, with costing for the present zoning at 8 units and an alternative cost for 13 units, should the zoning allow. Valley Cities would gather quotes to complete site work and utility hook ups.

“We need to determine whether we want eight or 15 units,” Stober said. “There’s conversation around a potential zoning change that would be needed in the event we want to go up to 13 units, but right now, we can comfortably fit eight on the site.

“If we pull the trigger on this, we could be open as soon as May of 2018 and help move some of our neighbors off the streets and into housing,” Stober added.

Auburn Mayor Nancy Backus asked whether the units would be transitional or more permanent, supportive housing.

“It can be permanent supportive housing, it can be permanent housing, it can be transitional, it could be a vet program, it could be a housing project program for people in diversion courts, depending on what we decide is the best need,” said LorieAnn Larson, director of housing for Valley Cities.

“…We do have some infrastructure there to support individuals that could move into the site as well,” Larson added, noting that residents would be able to access a cafe, a community area, laundry facilities and supportive services at the adjacent Phoenix Rising site, including a computer lab.

“There are things I think we should be doing as a council,” said Councilman Claude DaCorsi, “albeit maybe not for this particular project … and look at our zoning laws to accommodate projects like this, because the affordable housing crisis is not going to go away.”

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