Council hears about farm’s affordable housing project

3 affordable housing structures would be built at city-owned Morales property

Local nonprofit Friends of the Farms submitted a proposal to the Bainbridge Island City Council Tuesday on providing farm intern affordable housing at the city-owned Morales Farm property.

The proposal includes building three permanent structures that would house up to two interns each. They would not be dwellings because they won’t have kitchens, said Matthew Coates of Coates Design, the architect of the project. Rather, they are referred to as “satellite bedrooms” in order to be permitted under city code. The property is located on Lovgreen Road just off of Highway 305.

Friends of the Farms is teaming with Clark Construction, local architect Coates Design and Housing Resources Bainbridge on the project. Coates Design will be building structures called reHOME’s, designed to benefit the environment and make housing more affordable.

ReHome is a new construction that utilizes materials that are 100 percent reclaimed, repurposed, unwanted, abandoned, recycled or otherwise headed for landfills, Coates said. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates up to 600 million tons of construction waste is produced nationwide each year, which makes up 35 percent of Washington state’s landfill.

Program executive director Heather Burger noted that September 2020 data shows that the median price for a home on Bainbridge Island is over $1 million and the average monthly cost of rental housing is approaching $2,000.

“Our farmers – like our firemen, teachers, health care workers and people working in our local store – provide for us and create diversity in our community but they can’t afford to live here,” Burger said. “Already under stresses never before experienced due to COVID, our farmers face additional uncertainty in planning for the future because of a lack of affordable housing.”

“The reHOME team’s proposed project on Morales Farm presents us with an opportunity to break through affordable housing barriers to create a model that can be replicated and begin to address the island-wide housing crisis,” she continued.

Coates echoed that sentiment.

“This is the time for this to happen,” he said. “What I love about this project is it’s actually never been done before. It’s a tall order but we’re very determined and convinced that we can do it. There’s really a dire need for them to get new housing in place on that site to continue their program. It’s a win for the community, environment and affordable housing.”

The city documents say the proposal does not require the existing farmhouse to be renovated. Significant repairs are needed to the house’s interior and exterior before it can be used again. In the long-term, FOF would like to utilize the farmhouse as a common space for the interns. From 2012-19, FOF has provided housing for more than 60 interns.

In 2003, the city acquired the property from Teddy and Gloria Morales using open space bonds.

FOF and their project team have been working with city staff on zoning and building questions. The project requires no city funding. The target date for housing to be available is in the latter half of 2021.

“We’re not here tonight to ask you for money, and we’re not here to show you something that’s all buttoned up and done,” Burger said to the council. “We’re prepared to be flexible and adapt as needed as we move through the planning and permitting process.”

The council approved to move forward consideration of the proposal, which will be further discussed at a future meeting.