Mt. Si Senior Center closes on purchase of Cascade Park Apartments, preserves affordable senior housing

Mt. Si Senior Center bought an apartment complex March 27, officially closing on the long-anticipated purchase of Cascade Park Apartments in North Bend.

This makes the Center the owner of the only two low-income housing complexes for seniors in the Upper Snoqualmie Valley: the 39-unit Sno Ridge Apartments already owned by the Center, and the 28-unit Cascade Park.

The purchase, in the works since December 2017, has preserved the small amount of affordable housing already in the Snoqualmie Valley and, more importantly for Cascade Park residents, it saved their homes.

“All of us are thrilled that it’s going to remain in the Valley,” said Char Esch, a 25-year resident. “We were all just holding our breath for a long time.”

Ownership of the property could have gone to a commercial real estate developer – and the apartments converted to market-rate dwellings – if Mt. Si Senior Center leadership hadn’t found a way to make an offer – on an asking price of $4,475,000 – by the June 30, 2018, deadline.

The apartments were built in the 1980s with U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development funds. As a result, the sellers were constrained by USDA rules to entertain offers only from nonprofit organizations for the first six months it was on the market.

Mt. Si Senior Center Executive Director Susan Kingsbury-Comeau and her board immediately recognized the huge opportunity to purchase the apartments, but she recalled, “In December, 2017 this seemed really unlikely… It was two days after Christmas, when we found out about it.”

It was impossible to give up on the idea, though, so Center leadership pooled resources and Kingsbury-Comeau met with North Bend realtor Jonathan Pearlstein to assess the possibilities for making a viable offer, in addition to upgrades and repairs for a total cost closer to $6 million. They soon enlisted aid from local and county sources, including Valley cities, King County Housing Authority, King County Councilwoman Kathy Lambert, and then-serving state officials Paul Graves, Jay Rodne and Dave Reichert.

“We have worked with amazing people, whose expertise and influence was critical in navigating us through the Byzantine 2 ½ year process of purchasing Cascade Park Apartments. We’ve finally made it across the finish line,” said Kingsbury-Comeau.

Helping to put the Center in the race at the start was King County Housing Authority, providing both technical and financial assistance to complete what Dan Watson of KCHA called “a very challenging technical process.”

Keeping Cascade Park as low-income housing was as much a priority for KCHA as it was for the Center, Watson explained. “We see any federally assisted low-income housing for seniors, or families, or for anybody else, as critically important to preserve…” he said. “It’s very important that it not convert to market rate housing….and it just makes all the sense in the world that Cascade Park Apartments be preserved and be a resource for the community and that Mt. Si Senior Center, with its experience, would would own and operate it.”

“We’re extremely pleased that Mt. Si Senior Center was able to put together the financing and acquire and preserve Cascade Park Apartments as affordable housing for seniors,” he added.

The successful acquisition has been a cause for celebration for everyone involved.

“I am very happy to see Mt. Si Senior Center finalizing the purchase of the Cascade Park Apartments and I commend their efforts to preserve vital affordable housing in our region,” Lambert said last week. “This significant project was made possible thanks to the joint effort of Mt. Si Senior Center, North Bend, King County, and King County Housing Authority. This preserves the existing housing that we have and we look forward to continuing to work with our partners to increase this important housing opportunity.”

Both North Bend and Snoqualmie Mayors talked about the need for affordable housing in their communities in their comments.

Snoqualmie Mayor Matt Larson said, “Congratulations to Mt. Si Senior Center for their successful purchase of the Cascade Park Apartment complex. Affordable housing—especially for seniors on fixed incomes — is one of the most pressing issues of our time. This is a considerable achievement and I am very grateful to all who helped make this happen on behalf of some of the most vulnerable in our community.”

“Affordable housing is a top priority for City Council and our staff. We are thrilled to learn that Mt. Si Senior Center closed on the Cascade Park Apartments and preserved this low-rent housing for our senior population,” said North Bend Mayor Rob McFarland. “This is a win for our community.”

Cascade Park tenant Louise Trew concurred. “I was hoping that this would be the result. I know that the senior center is dedicated to making sure there is housing available, affordable housing for seniors.”

Trew moved in only two years ago, when the sale had already been announced, and had been worried  about being displaced if the property were sold to a commercial developer. If that happened, she said, “I think a lot of people couldn’t afford to be here, and from what I understand, they would have been told they had to go live somewhere else.”

Esch remembered how it felt when she first found out the building would be sold. “We were all trying to plan… It was such a shock to so many of us, we didn’t know what to do. Senior housing all has these huge waiting lists. And there’s nothing out here in North Bend, except this building, and the one right next to it.”

She moved to North Bend in 1995 and didn’t want to leave, nor did she want to live with her children nearby, she said. Speaking for many Cascade Park tenants, who have become like family, she said, “We still want to live independently.”

Under Senior Center ownership, Cascade Park Apartments will continue as subsidized housing. Tenants must be re-qualified annually to continue living in the apartments so rates can sometimes change, but will never exceed 30 percent of a tenant’s income.

Margo Stevenson, a resident for nearly four years, is thankful for the assistance. “I love it here, absolutely love it. I feel safe and secure. I don’t pay much, thank God,” she said. “Well, I can’t. I only make $800 a month.”

For more information about the Mt. Si Senior Center and its programs, visit www.mtsiseniorcenter.org.

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