Konrads offered property in favorable deal
Eleven affordable homes – from one through four bedrooms – will be built next year in Twisp by the Methow Housing Trust (MHT), thanks to a recent below-market sale to the trust by Hank and Judy Konrad, owners of Hank’s Harvest Foods.
The sale of 12 “shovel-ready” lots on Riverside Avenue near the Twisp Public Works headquarters closed last week, MHT Executive Director Danica Ready said. Because of the nature of the utility infrastructure, the lots will accommodate 11 homes.
The sale is the final step in a partnership MHT and the Konrads have been working toward for almost a year, Ready said. “Hank came to me last summer, after a Housing Solutions Network meeting, with an invitation to sell MHT land appropriate for building additional affordable single-family homes on. After doing some basic due diligence on the land, we decided it was a no-brainer,” Ready said.
Priced well below market value, the Konrad property was affordable — the housing trust purchased the property for 55% of the appraised value, Ready said. Knowing that the Konrads intend to put the proceeds from the sale toward another affordable-housing project made it a more meaningful partnership for the whole community, she said.
The property was especially attractive because it already has all infrastructure and water and sewer hook-ups, meaning MHT can start construction next year, with the expectation that people can move in in 2024, Ready said.
Many of their employees are struggling to find affordable housing near Twisp, Hank Konrad said. Some drive from Pateros or Lost River and, while he helps pay for fuel, he promised himself he would do something more tangible to address the valley’s housing problem, Konrad said.
The Konrads bought the Riverside Avenue parcels several years ago with the intention of building affordable homes there. But when construction costs increased, the project was put on hold.
Konrad knew MHT was interested in the property. “I felt I had enough things going,” he said and, with the lots ready to build on, this seemed a good project to hand over so he could concentrate on the other projects.
For one project, the town of Twisp is considering an application from the Konrads to annex two properties along Highway 20 into the town’s limits to develop affordable housing.
“We have always been committed to helping with local housing, but can’t do it alone,” Konrad said. “I have been watching what the Methow Housing Trust does with their program, and have two employees that already live in MHT homes in Twisp. They are fulfilling an important community need, and we wanted to help them continue to successfully build more homes for local folks as soon as possible.”
“The Konrads have been such leaders in housing for a good long time. We are proud to have their trust and partnership on this project,” Ready said.
Permanently affordable homes
For the Riverside Avenue project, as with all of MHT’s other homes, the homeowner buys the house and gets a ground lease, while the housing trust retains ownership of the land. The resale value of the house is capped at a 1.5% increase per year so that the homes remain affordable in perpetuity, Ready said.
MHT expects to use some of the floor plans they are currently building in Winthrop and may incorporate new designs, Ready said.
MHT has a total of 26 homes completed and occupied throughout the valley, with another 11 slated for completion in Winthrop next year.
MHT’s first neighborhood was constructed in Twisp, with 13 homes on Canyon Street. Since then, the housing trust has built 11 homes in Winthrop at Cascade Meadows South, across from the post office, and eight in Mazama in the McKinney Ridge development. The Riverside Avenue property will add another 11 homes.
MHT is currently developing infrastructure for 26 homes at Cascade Meadows North in Winthrop, with completion of homes there expected from 2024 through 2027. That will bring the total number of MHT permanently affordable homes to 74, Ready said.
MHT also has a partnership with the Housing Authority of Okanogan County, which is building 22 rental homes at Cascade Meadows North.
MHT neighborhoods are home to a variety of community members, including bakers, store clerks, artists, small business owners, educators and health care workers.
MHT’s eligibility criteria are linked to the area median income (AMI). The AMI for Okanogan County is currently $48,258, according to the Washington State Employment Security Department’s regional labor economist. Initially only people making 100% or less of the AMI qualified for MHT homes but, as the organization found itself turning away people who had no other viable options in the local housing market, the MHT board expanded criteria so that one-quarter of their homes can be sold to people earning up to 150% of the AMI, Ready said.
In those cases, the housing price is adjusted for those who earn more money, but if one of those houses is resold, it will be offered to the next person on their list and be priced based on that person’s income — that is, it won’t be set at a higher price in perpetuity, Ready said.
Based on MHT’s current policy and pricing, Ready anticipates that the Riverside Avenue homes will start at $180,000 for a 2-bedroom home for someone earning the AMI or below. For people earning between 100 and 150% of the AMI, the same house would cost $240,000.
The 2021, the median home price in the Methow Valley was half a million dollars. A two-person household in the valley would have to earn more than twice the median income to buy a home through the regular real estate market, according to MHT.
At present, a one-person household could earn a gross monthly income of between $2,765 and $6,913 — and have up to $44,240 in assets — to qualify for an MHT home. All criteria are keyed to household size and there are adjustments for retired people.
There are currently 57 people and families on MHT’s waiting list. As homes are completed, they are offered on a first-come, first-served basis.
Information and applications for MHT homes are available at https://methowhousingtrust.org. Anyone interested can set up an interview to review eligibility. MHT helps connect applicants with lenders that are familiar with the community-housing-trust model.
Ready encouraged people to apply. “A lot of people are surprised that they qualify,” she said.