By Marcy Stamper
Danica Ready, who has devoted her professional career to working with nonprofits that hold land in trust for public benefit, has been hired as the first executive director of the Methow Housing Trust, a nonprofit launched in March to create affordable housing in the Methow Valley.
For the past 12 years, Ready was program manager for Methow Trails. Before that, she worked for the Methow Conservancy and at several nonprofits that focused on the environment, science and education.
Community land trusts, like Methow Trails and the conservancy, hold land in trust, but for affordable housing instead of conservation of open space or trails, said Ready. “So there is a fair bit of parallel in how the process works, just different community goals being met,” she said.
Ready also has direct, hands-on experience in creating affordable and sustainable housing. She has designed and built five small homes in the valley (from 1,000 to 1,300 square feet) and has remodeled a small house.
“I’m a huge fan of small, smart home design and, regardless of budget, would choose it and recommend it to anyone,” said Ready by email. “A home offers individuals and families more than just a dwelling to live in but, if done right, provides a sense of pride, security, rootedness and dignity.”
Ready has also served on the Methow Fund Advisory Board and was appointed this year by Gov. Jay Inslee to serve on the state Recreation and Conservation Funding Board. She’s lived in the Methow Valley for 17 years.
The Housing Trust grew out of a strategic-plan commitment by Methow Valley Long Term Recovery to focus on affordable housing. The recovery group raised money from private donors for the housing trust, including an executive director and support staff.
A housing assessment commissioned by the long-term recovery group last year found a lack of affordable housing in the Methow, in terms of both cost and availability. Forty-one percent of the 5,000 housing units in the Methow Valley are occupied only seasonally, and fewer than 300 are vacant and available for rent or for sale, according to the assessment.
The Methow Housing Trust plans to adopt the community land-trust model, in which the trust develops housing on land it owns. The trust would manage that housing so that it remains affordable.
The trust is currently looking at properties for its first project, which it hopes to announce this summer, said Bill Pope, board president. The trust is targeting housing for people earning between $20,000 and $40,000, he said.
In addition to hiring Ready, the trust recently obtained its nonprofit status from the IRS as a 501(c)(3) organization, which allows contributions to be tax-deductible.
The Methow Housing Trust will help meet timely, immediate needs, said Ready. “Everyone I talk to about it says, ‘Yes, it is time to make this real.’ It will be exciting to see how the Methow does it in a way that is germane to our place, people and values. We are, in essence, architects of community,” she said.