After decades of senior residents in Carnation being burdened by high housing costs and forced out of the community, the Sno-Valley Senior Center is on the precipice of bringing the first senior affordable housing units to the Lower Snoqualmie Valley.
Those units are part of a proposed three-story apartment complex the senior center has been planning since 2018 and would be located at the corner of Stephens Avenue and Commercial Street, adjacent to its current building.
When finished, the building will house 15 one-bedroom, income-restricted apartments for seniors 62 and older. Eight of those units will serve those making 30% or less of the area median income, while four units will serve those making 50% or less and three units will serve those making 60% or less. Five units will be reserved for income-eligible veterans.
Having already raised $4 million through a string of grants and loans, the senior center is well on its way to meeting the apartment complex’s $6 million price tag.
That’s good news because there is an immense need for the project, said Lisa Yeager, director of the senior center, noting how Carnation seniors often move away when maintenance on their homes becomes too challenging.
“When our seniors need to downsize or need something more affordable, they are forced to move out of the Valley,” Yeager said. “We kept seeing that more and more frequently — people were moving out of the Valley who didn’t want to move away.”
Senior residents in the Valley living alone make up a disproportionate amount of low-income residents, according to a 2019 community needs assessment. Despite that need, there is a lack of senior-only affordable housing complexes in the Valley. North Bend is home to the Valley’s only two-income restricted senior apartments.
The Sno-Valley Senior Center, which serves about 1,000 people each year, estimates about a quarter of those who use its services have incomes at or below 30% AMI, according to a 2021 feasibility study. In King County, 30% of the area’s median income in 2021 was just over $24,000 a year for a single person.
“Affordable senior housing is a need in the Valley, let alone in Carnation,” said Mayor Kim Lisk, noting that the city has a mobile home park for those 65 and older, but otherwise doesn’t have any other offerings.
“This is something that is long overdue. This has been a dream of both the city and the senior center,” Lisk said. “We want to make this dream come true.”
To bring the apartment project to fruition and secure the remaining $2 million, the center will need to prove that it can contribute $1 million to the project. If the center has that funding in order by a Sept. 1 deadline, the last $1 million portion in grant funds will be made available to complete the project.
So far, the senior center already has $700,000 of its $1 million commitment ready to go, which it received after a center attendee sold their rental property in Duvall for the effort.
“That helped a lot,” Yeager said. “That shows the commitment that’s out there in the community.”
The center is hoping to raise the final $300,000 through a fundraising event being held at the center from 7-8:30 p.m. June 29. The event will feature live music, food and the project’s architect to answer questions. Those who donate $1,000 will receive an engraved brick that will be part of the apartment complex’s walkway. Payments for the brick can be made in $100 segments over a ten-month period.
If the center meets its Sept. 1 deadline, then construction is expected to start in August 2023, with occupation the following year.
For Yeager, members of the senior center board and the city, the apartment complex is a long time coming, following years of requests for additional housing. Yeager herself has been working on housing projects at the senior center as far back as 2005.
“I really really want to see it happen,” she said.