Efforts to fill Whatcom County’s deficit in affordable housing continue — this time in Everson.
On Dec. 13, the Everson City Council unanimously approved a conditional use permit intended for a mixed-use, mixed-income development on Lincoln Street in Everson.
This permit paved the way for Habitat for Humanity in Whatcom County, a local nonprofit, to follow through with plans to develop permanently affordable housing units in the area. The plans include a total of 30 townhomes, eight apartments, and 7,000 square feet of commercial space, just a block away from downtown Everson.
The organization hopes that additional housing and commercial space in the area will bring increased business activity and foot traffic to downtown Everson.
Similar to the rest of Whatcom County, finding affordable housing in Everson can be challenging. Marcelo Pratesi, director for advancement and communications at Habitat for Humanity, said a few city council members raised concerns that someday their children might not be able to afford a home in Everson.
The most recent data on Everson’s housing situation comes from the 2016 Comprehensive Plan for the city, which calculated that around 40% of households are living in unaffordable housing. The median price of a home was $226,400, and just under half of Everson families were paying more than 30% of their income on mortgage or rent.
Since then, the median price for a home has more than doubled, Pratesi said, likely creating an even greater need for affordable housing in the area.
Everson and its surrounding areas were the sites of a devastating flood in November 2021, which caused $150 million in damage throughout the county. Recovery is continuing in the region, more than a year later.
Pratesi said while the hope is the project site does not flood in the future, it is imperative to factor in the potential in the development plans.
“Preventing damage from future floods is a crucial part of our goal for long-term affordability for our homebuyers,” Pratesi said. “The first thing our construction team will do is raise the building sites 1 foot above the base flood elevation.”
In addition to this precaution, the finished developments will be 2 feet above base flood elevation. To prevent damage to important functions of the homes, attic spaces — rather than crawl spaces — will be utilized for power, ducts and venting.
Due to the reliance on volunteer work and donated materials, organizations hesitated to confirm a date for completion of the project. But for now, the project is intended to break ground in late spring, with phased construction of around four to eight homes at a time.
A previous version of this story misreported that Habitat for Humanity is collaborating with other local organizations on the Everson Townhomes Project. Habitat is working alone on the project. The story was updated to reflect this change on Jan. 9, 2023, at 4:59 p.m. Cascadia Daily News regrets the error.