Community Action of Skagit County and our partners are nearing completion of construction on Cascade Landing Apartment Homes, 34 new units in Burlington. We’re excited to complete construction in September 2022, with leasing to begin in October. A ribbon cutting, hosted by Burlington Chamber of Commerce, will take place noon-1 p.m., Tues., Sept. 27, at 160 Cascade Place, with tours and ice cream available. More information will be posted on our website mid-August.Cascade Landing Apartment Homes is expected to begin filling units as early as October 1. For more information about how to apply, please email info@cascadelanding.com. Addressing the state’s worst shortage of apartments, Cascade Landing is a unique nonprofit/for-profit partnership between Community Action and owner/developers Dan Mitzel and Patti Burklund. The partners are converting second-floor office space at 160 Cascade Place into residential homes: 26 studio apartments, as well as four one-bedroom and two two-bedroom apartments. “Skagit County is thousands of units behind in apartments that local folks can actually afford,” said Bill Henkel, Community Action’s Executive Director. According to the fall 2021 University of Washington Market Rental Survey, Skagit County has the lowest rental vacancy rate in the state. Renters at Cascade Landing may range from senior citizens who need to downsize, to people working hard to pay bills while saving for their future. “School teachers, grocery and restaurant workers —everyone should be able to afford to live in the communities they serve,” said Henkel. “Today, many can’t. Housing stability is key to success for education, employment, and health.”We intend to prioritize at least 10 of the 34 units for veterans. Cascade Landing is located above Community Action’s Skagit Vets Connect office on the first floor of the building, and both projects are supported by former Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates and Becky Gates.

Cascade Landing is a pilot project, an innovative partnership between a for-profit business and Community Action, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. To lead this and future initiatives, the agency hired Building Project Director Michele Metcalf, who has experience in developing homes with tribal governments and nonprofits. “The challenges in Skagit County are both availability (practically none), and affordability (rents are skyrocketing),” Metcalf said. “We believe our community can solve this problem by working together creatively.”

The apartments will be affordable to people earning 60% of the Area Median Income (around $2,900/mo for a single person), and will require no more than 30% of the tenant’s income. We also anticipate many of the tenants will receive some form of rental assistance, allowing the units to be affordable to those earning well below 60% AMI.

All units include bathrooms and kitchens, with soundproofing and energy efficiency, indoor and outdoor common spaces, and includes ADA units. The apartments will be professionally managed.

The $2.7 million redevelopment project “is one important piece to the puzzle” of making housing affordable in Skagit County, Metcalf said. The cost of retrofitting under-utilized commercial office space into residential apartments was an extremely low $70,000 per unit (or $120,000- $130,000/unit including the value of the existing building. “This is well under the cost of most comparable affordable housing projects,” said Metcalf. Private capital was used to redevelop the second floor of underutilized commercial space into apartments; the building was already zoned mixed use, and the project fits into the neighborhood, which is a mix of commercial services, apartments, and greenspace with trails.

Because its master lease on all 34 residential units is based on construction costs (and a portion of the current value of the building), Community Action committed to raise $600,000 to buy down the construction costs so that we in turn could rent the units at an affordable rate, while still covering ongoing operational costs. We are also raising an additional $120,000 for fixtures and final touches to make the common areas homey and welcoming.

Supporters of this project include Becky and Robert Gates, former US Secretary of Defense; PeaceHealth United General Medical Center; Lisa and Mike Janicki; Mount Vernon First Christian Church; Pacific WoodTech; and other major donors. The Jerry H. Walton Foundation has committed to $25,000 as a matching grant for Community Action’s “Home Stretch” campaign to raise the last $120,000 for fixtures and furnishings.

Community Action is a 501(c)(3) charitable nonprofit organization serving Skagit County since 1979. Cascade Landing LLC is under Community Action’s umbrella. For more information: info@cascadelanding.com.