Goosefoot and Affordable Housing
Goosefoot has a long history of being involved with the issue of affordable housing on South Whidbey Island.
In communities nationwide, astronomical home prices and the lack of rental units mean businesses are chronically short-staffed. Job seekers simply can’t afford housing near where they want to work. The effects are even more severe in our rural, island community, where less expensive neighboring suburbs don’t exist and multi-family rental units are almost impossible to find.
Goosefoot Selects Architect for Affordable Housing Development in Langley
Goosefoot Community Fund is pleased to announce the selection of Environmental Works Community Design Center as the architectural firm for the organization’s multi-family housing development in the City of Langley.
Environmental Works will be designing a project for rental apartments on a two-parcel lot, located at 2nd & DeBruyn. The 2- and 3-bedroom units will be affordable for households with an income of up to 80% of the area median income (AMI) for Island County, which was $51,050 per year in 2022.
Goosefoot’s Housing Group (GHG) was particularly impressed with two features unique to this firm. Like Goosefoot, Environmental Works is mission driven in their work by virtue of also being a non-profit. Secondly, they place an emphasis on the public input process for each of their projects, uniquely tailored to the needs and expectations of each community.
Environmental Works is a 501(c)3 non-profit community-based architectural firm, “committed to the belief that everyone deserves a home and well-designed community facilities, regardless of income.” Since 1970, they have worked almost exclusively with other non-profit organizations, municipal agencies, and underrepresented community groups. About 75% of their work focuses on publicly funded low-income and affordable housing projects, and they have a history of successful projects on Whidbey and San Juan islands.
Goosefoot’s Housing Group (GHG) conducted an extensive selection process, reaching out to local architects and regional firms with affordable multifamily experience. Environmental Works was chosen from a pool of 12 impressive firms that responded to a formal Request for Qualifications process. That process has been documented and will be made available to other affordable housing developers, as part of a plan to make GHG a local resource for technical assistance.
More information will be forthcoming regarding the public engagement process for this project.
2nd & DeBruyn Rental Housing Development
On March 29, 2023, Goosefoot received the deed for two adjoining lots it purchased in the City of Langley. Last March, property owners JR and Cally Fulton offered favorable terms for Goosefoot to purchase and “land-bank” the property for affordable housing development in the near future. With the assistance of anonymous donors, half the purchase price was raised and Goosefoot had until March 2023 to raise the remaining amount due.
With a $1.1 million grant awarded to Goosefoot by Island County through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) earlier this year, the purchase was completed. The remaining grant amount will enable substantial pre-construction work to get started while permanent financing is secured. Overseeing the project and currently in the process of selecting architects is Goosefoot’s Housing Group (see below). Plans are underway to engage community input for initial schematic designs, including from those who need this type of housing.
Goosefoot’s Housing Group
Building affordable and low-income housing is difficult and complicated. Different funding mechanisms exist for different income levels served by the housing development to be built. On Whidbey Island, the lack of septic and water infrastructure makes housing projects cost prohibitive outside of the three municipalities of Langley, Coupeville, and Oak Harbor.
In rural communities like ours, myriad types of small-scale solutions are needed. Multiple methods of constructing, acquiring, and inventing ways of housing residents need to be employed, and at a density that conforms to rural land use.
To this end, Goosefoot is contributing staff and seed money towards establishing a new housing organization that will focus on traditional and innovative ways of delivering affordable housing throughout Island County. Our vision is a group that can advocate legislatively, partner with developers on new construction projects, and serve as a resource for other Island County housing projects that need assistance in the planning stages.
A steering committee of experienced housing, finance and development professionals has established the new organization’s mission and strategic priorities. Its purpose is to create housing affordable to people who live and work in Island County, with an initial focus on workforce rental housing. Through partnerships and coalitions, the organization will work toward the development and long term management of housing, and will broaden the community’s understanding of the needs and opportunities for this work.
The rental housing development at 2nd & DeBruyn in Langley (see above) is their first project, which they hope will serve as a model for others. The organization will establish itself under Goosefoot’s fiscal sponsorship, and we will maintain some financial and other support on an ongoing basis, per our status as a Type 1 Supporting Organization. Fiscal sponsorship is a way for that new project or organization to start its charitable work immediately, while Goosefoot takes care of the administrative and compliance areas. This allows Goosefoot’s Housing Group (as it’s calling itself in this phase) to develop internal leadership expertise that is focused exclusively on the creation and prservation of affordable housing across Island County.
Updates will be posted to this page as the organization develops. In the meantime, here’s how you can help:
- We’d love to hear from you if you’ve worked with a group like this before or if you have a specific set of skills applicable to the development of affordable housing.
- Our community also needs “ambassadors,” who can assist and champion the need for affordable housing in our community whenever possible.
- If you have an accessory dwelling, 2nd home, or short-term rental, considering offering it as long-term housing at a rate affordable for local workers, and encourage others to do the same.
- Want to know what qualifies as “affordable” in our community? Go here.
Contact us at [email protected]. org or 360-321-4145
As a landlord to over 24 non-profits and small businesses in the Bayview area, Goosefoot started seeing the growing housing crisis and its economic impact well before the pandemic. Bayview is one of only three county-designated RAIDS (Rural Area of Intense Development) where multi-family developments can be built, other than within our three municipalities.
In 2021, Goosefoot organized a group of other landowners in Bayview to work collaboratively on identifying opportunities to develop affordable housing in the area. Goosefoot hired and paid for a consulting consortium (Schemata Workshop, Spectrum Development Solutions, and MIG Civil Engineering) to determine the economic, environmental, and infrastructure feasibility of such a project. The process included an infrastructure and site review, a housing needs survey, and a public meeting.
The study highlighted the challenges for building affordably: land to building ratio for standard septic leachfields; the high cost of more innovative Large On-Site Systems that have lower land ratios; and the fact that federal subsidy programs are targeted toward designated urban areas, very large projects, and/or “economically distressed zones.”
The take-aways were that parternships are ideal, site selection is a key component to affordability, and financing pipelines need to be developed on the public and private levels to enable non-urban developments to make fiscal sense. Goosefoot continues to work toward these goals being realized in the Bayview RAID, and is looking forward to the Housing Group taking the lead in advocating for these issues to be considered at the State and County levels.
Housing at Bayview Corner
In late 2007, Goosefoot partnered with the Island County Housing Authority in an attempt to build affordable housing on property we owned in Bayview Corner. Because the property is zoned rural, only “essential public facilities” are allowed to be built according to zoning code.
In December 2007, Goosefoot submitted an application to the Island County Planning Department for a Zoning Code Interpretation requesting that affordable housing be considered an “essential public facility.” This would have allowed the use of rural zoned property for the development of multi-family housing, in this case owned and operated by the Housing Authority.
In March 2008, the county ruled that affordable housing did not meet the definition of an “essential public facility” and denied Goosefoot’s request.
House Moving Program
Since our founding in 1999, Goosefoot has played a role in helping to provide affordable housing on South Whidbey Island.
Between 2000 and 2008, our “house-cycling moving program” matched 13 land owners with homes destined for demolition due to new construction projects. Couples began their lives together in these homes, raising families without the pressures of finding a comfortable place to live.