The Common Ground Community Housing Trust in Wenatchee is building eight homes in the city that'll be affordably priced. 

Housing project from Common Ground Community Housing Trust
Housing project from Common Ground Community Housing Trust

Community Housing Trusts in general own the land on which they build homes and lease the land to individuals who buy the homes. 

In this project, the person owns the home and gets a 99-year lease for the land while the community retains ownership of the land through the Common Ground Community Housing Trust. 

Executive Director Thom Nees says the project won't solve the housing crunch Wenatchee has long faced but is a major first step. 

"We are not the solution in this community by any means, but we are a viable solution that can create long term affordability in our housing stock," said Nees. 

He outlined three tiers of stewardship in a presentation to the Wenatchee City Council last Thursday. 

The first is helping households earning less than 80 percent of the area median income become homeowners and retain their home ownership. 

Nees said Community Housing Trust homes are almost always successful financially for the buyer. "I can tell you in the Community Trust on a national scale, it is less than one percent foreclosure rate on Community Housing Trust land." 

The second stewardship undertaken by the housing trust is to steer community investment into preserving the home's affordability for future homebuyers. 

The third tier of stewardship is to ensure the quality construction of the homes and promote sound maintenance of them over time. 

Nees is about a month into his role as the executive director of the Community Housing Trust after leaving his position heading Serve Wenatchee. He has one part-time administrative assistant. The organization has a nine-member board of directors. 

They're working with a consultant on a five-year strategic plan, which includes construction of 40 affordable homes during the time frame, with the building of eight houses per year that will be permanently affordable. 

Nees said each home would likely provide housing for six or seven families over the next 50 years, given the average occupancy of a home in the U.S. is seven years. However, he noted people who buy housing trust homes can stay as long as they want. 

The organization closed on its first purchase of property in Wenatchee on April 27, 2023.  

Land surface modification permits have been obtained and ground was broken last week. Nees said a couple of small deficiencies on the site plan will be remedied quickly. 

The plan is to deliver eight homes in the first quarter of 2025. 

Artist rendition of Crail Cottages housing project - Common Ground Community Housing Trust
Artist rendition of Crail Cottages housing project - Common Ground Community Housing Trust

The eight homes, known as Crail Cottages, will be sold to households earning between 65-80 percent of the Wenatchee area median income.

The homes will sell for about a third of the median price of a home in Wenatchee, which was $496,000 in April. The homes will sell for between $165,000-$180,000. 

Each of the eight cottage style homes will be about 970 square feet. They're being built on a .4-acre site at 1034 9th Street in Wenatchee. 

"This certainly is a density laden project," said Nees. "But if you look at the numbers that we have to deliver as a community in terms of housing over the next 20 years, we're going to have to address density. We simply have no other option being in the valley that we are in." 

Common Ground Community Housing Trust is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. 

Photo of Crail Cottages housing project - Common Ground Community Housing Trust
Photo of Crail Cottages housing project - Common Ground Community Housing Trust

Nees named the various businesses and government organizations providing financial support for the housing trust - City of Wenatchee, Chelan County, Banner Bank, Wheatland/North Cascades Bank, Guild Mortgage and the Housing Authority of Chelan County and the City of Wenatchee. 

He said the project's affordability gap is being filled by grants from Chelan County and Washington State, along with reduced fees from Chelan PUD, City of Wenatchee, contractors and material vendors. 

Nees said the price tag for the Cottage Trails housing project is $2.5 million. He said it costs about $400,000 to build each home that'll sell for $180,000, which means there's a $220,000 funding gap to fill. 

He said the subsidy provided by donors will stay with the house, in that the land is deed restricted and the homes must be sold to the next family at an affordable rate. 

Nees said the purpose of the housing trust is to give people who work and play in Wenatchee an opportunity to live in the city.  

"That's what motivates us and keeps us moving forward, because we believe everyone in our community deserves the opportunity to live where they work and play," Nees said. 

He told city councilors that funding and community involvement are the biggest needs for his organization. 

Wenatchee Mayor Mike Poirier said the project could serve as a springboard for more affordable housing projects. "Obviously, we support this," said Poirier. "We do know there a need and there's going to be a need for a long, long time. So, this is one thing that you're taking off the ground that will be inspirational."

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