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Housing Hope to build site on school land for $1/year lease

EVERETT — The Everett School District is surplussing the Norton Ballfields to let Housing Hope, a nonprofit, build a housing center for homeless families.
The school board last week unanimously approved a 75-year lease at $1 a year for the unused plot at 36th Street and Norton Avenue. The 3-acre site is in the historic Norton-Grand Neighborhood west of the downtown core.
The building close to Sequoia High School will exclusively house families with students in the school district. It will have at least 34 units and stand at two stories, according to the lease document.
The school district had 1,266 students who experienced being homeless
during the last school year, and as of May it appears to be on track to have similar numbers this year.
There wasn’t a call for providers to build the project.
Housing Hope’s CEO Fred Safstrom said it came “organically” from discussions over the past year with Superintendent Gary Cohn.
The state Legislature last year helped open the door. Among new laws focused on affordable housing, now the state, county and local government agencies — including school districts — can sell surplus government property at below-market prices to nonprofits and private developers explicitly for affordable housing.
Construction could begin by mid-2023, according to Housing Hope. It’s obligated to open the site by June 2025 or relinquish the property.
Housing Hope “would become responsible for property and other taxes, property and builder’s risk insurance, utilities, construction, maintenance, repair, and operating costs,” from a presentation slide.
Neighbors were miffed about not being clearly notified about the plans in advance, but appear generally supportive for the project.
The school district notes that it put two legal notices in the Herald. Housing Hope said through a spokeswoman that “moving forward, we will want to inform the community” now that the lease is approved.
The ballfields are not in use. At one time it was the site of Jackson Elementary.
“I can’t identify a more noble use than this,” said Dean Smith, a prior chair of the Port Gardner Neighborhood Association where it would be built, told the school board at a public comment period last week.
The project will require extra permitting work and obtaining a conditional use permit, and also will need a public hearing as the
Norton-Grand Neighborhood is under a special city zoning overlay.



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