Imagine Housing to Share Latest Plans for Snoqualmie Affordable Housing Project

Last summer a buzz started around Snoqualmie when Imagine Housing announced its plan to build a lower-income, 160-unit  apartment complex on a parcel of land (S-20) adjacent to the new Eagle Point neighborhood on Snoqualmie Ridge.

At the time it was stated that project’s financing hinged on the Snoqualmie City Council giving land (S-20) for the project tax-exempt status. It was a point that created a lot of debate among citizens.  Many turned out for a June city council meeting about this potential project and it’s tax exemption possibility.

In the end, it was determined that utility infrastructure for land parcel S-20 would not be ready until possibly 2013, so the city council asked Imagine Housing to incorporate public input into their project plans and provide them an updated proposal.

According to Councilwoman Maria Henriksen, “We asked that Imagine take all public comment into consideration in their next proposal and that they do greater public outreach before coming back to Council.”

Screen Shot 2013-01-12 at 8.02.00 AMImagine Housing’s community outreach begins Wednesday, January 23rd.  That’s the date they will hold a Snoqualmie community outreach meeting to reveal Imagine Housing’s latest plans for its Snoqualmie affordable housing project.  The meeting happens from 7-9PM at the Snoqualmie Valley YMCA, 35018 SE Ridge Street.

Imagine Housing and the development team are asking Snoqualmie residents to join them as they “share the next generation of our plans for Snoqualmie Ridge Parcel S-20.”

At the meeting, Imagine Housing plans to share the past community input which has been infused into the latest plan and give residents a chance to provide further input and have additional questions answered.

According to Imagine Housing Executive Director, Ann Levine, they are still seeking a tax-exempt exempt status for land parcel S-20, as previously announced last summer.

Levine also said,  “We [Imagine Housing] also are analyzing our ability to move forward with the project without it if the city declines the request.”  She said details for a “no tax exempt” project would be discussed further at the January 23rd meeting.

The project has not been approved by the Snoqualmie City Council yet.  The Imagine Housing project would fulfill Snoqualmie Ridge II Mixed Use Plan’s affordable rental housing requirement.  That Mixed Use Plan legally requires Snoqualmie Ridge II to contain both “for sale” and “for rent” affordable housing.  The “for sale” affordable requirement has already been completed.

About Imagine Housing

Imagine Housing, formerly St. Andrews Housing Group, develops permanent, affordable rental housing for individuals and families in East King County.  The increasingly high cost of living in Washington State is forcing families to move into areas with no transportation, few job opportunities and little personal security.

The company’s goal is to bring affordable housing to King County’s Eastside, the most populous county in Washington, and to create communities where individuals and families where can live regardless of their income level; a community that can provide people such as teachers, service professionals and minimum wage earners affordable housing, allowing them live in the same cities where they work.


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  • Glad we passed that tax increase so we could exempt taxes for this builder. Who benefits from no taxes? Low income residents or builder? Let’s not forget to exempt on association dues. Glad school district has space for all these new students. I favor affordable housing but not with tax exemptions .

  • One of the reasons my family purchased our first home in Snoqualmie was because it’s a much more diverse population than in some of the other east side neighborhoods and towns. I respect that tax issues create heightened sensitivities among folks, but for me and my family, we feel like the benefit of having a diverse population and allowing lower-income earners the ability to live in our awesome community with their families will be huge, regardless of how builders and the city work out the logistics.

  • High density, low income housing will increase crime in our community. That is a fact. Our police will be responding to a disproportionate number of calls to the low income housing. That is almost certainly a fact. The request for tax exempt status should be declined. We will need those funds to help pay for the additional police services.

    1. You say and I quote, “…low income housing will increase crime in our community. That is a fact.” I would ask you to site your references that guide you to this conclusion. You cannot condemn people you have never met without scientific proof. Or are you just spouting off at the mouth because your precious yuppie community is trying to become more diverse? You have no clue what the impact will be because you have not done any research into the actual effects on a community. It would be wise of you to, I don’t know, use your computer and look up what the potential effects could be. Then you might actually find that you are wrong and that would just be horrible. Stop acting like you know everything and do research before you low everyone’s IQ with sub par comments that have no factual basis and are purely emotional.

      1. Reviewing US Bureau of Justice Statistics 2011 for cities below 100,000 population, property victimization and violent victimization is on average (national) is 25% higher for those in the $48,000 (60% King county median household income) than those income ranges above $75,000 or more. Property Victimization = all property victimization, household burglary, motor vehicle theft, and theft.
        Violent Victimization = rape, sexual assault, personal robbery, or assault.

        While this is a national average and many other variables come into play, it is an interesting data point coming from this source.

        I do not suggest Snoqualmie will immediately see this level of crime increase nor crime will immediately occur, but it raises an interesting risk profile when the city is considering tax exemption. Considering this risk factor, the city should weigh this into consideration when thinking about tax exemption. We have a great police force, and we all value and appreciate the unofficial motto “no call is too small”. Given this data point, could this be in jeopardy if a tax base is not included with the added population from this project? Will the city citizens in the future have to pay additional taxes for this offset? Hard to answer, but again, it is a risk profile.

        Additional context, based on the June 2012 Imagine Housing site plans, the maximum occupancy is 800 residents. I do not know what the practical number is, but again, using a risk profile, my unprofessional opinion is that 800 new residents with no added tax base seems misaligned.


  • Having lived a good portion of my younger years in Chicago, I have seen first hand the good and the bad of low income housing. My wife and I moved to the Ridge because we instantly fell in love with the community. I’m all in favor of giving people an opportunity to better their lives or situation. To me, that is what the American Dream is all about. Unfortunately I have seen more then once the end results of low income housing. It always starts out with good intentions, but over time it fades and before you know it, you have an environment with an element you no longer desire. It impacts everything – schools, businesses, safety, property values – once it begins to spiral downward it is unrecoverable. Just imagine future potential home buyers willing to spend $400k+ on a house…until their realtor points out the low income apartments. Don’t let the developer fool you. They are in this to make money, not provide low income families an opportunity. When/if things go bad they will dump the property to the highest bidder and leave us with the problem.

  • Tax exempt..that is insane..they ( low income residents) will need more police, firefighters, school personel, special ed services ,free medical care..ect ect. We already have a bad tax base up here, and because of it, the poorest schools both physcically and academically on the Eastside.

    These low income people will have to drive to Iss. or N. bend for low income jobs because there arent any up here. Only the casino will benefit. CASINO another non tax paying parasite!

    This will increase traffic, pollution, crime..lower property values ect. The schools up here are poor, no options..the only thing this place has going for it is lack of this kind of inner city uglimess.
    The Eagle pointe people and othe Ridge residents through hard work and paying a king’s ransom in monthly property tax, will not be happy when more Uhauls arrive on their driveway to steal their belongings and identities..,
    and their children have to go to SES because these new non tax paying people need room in CVES.

    bad news!@

    1. Much agreed Rachel. I am proud to say that I attended SES back in the day. Long before the Ridge was even a thought. What people are failing to see is that there is a HUGE difference between low income housing and affordable housing. Affordable housing will allow the Ridge’s precious schools to have teacher who can afford to live in this community!! The crime will not increase…has the crime increased on the Ridge since they put in the Habitat for Humanity neighborhood years ago? I think not!

      1. Right Michelle!? I also went to SES and so do my boys. it is horrible to think that people look down on where my boys get their education.

        I will never forget sitting in a restaurant in Issaquah one afternoon listening to two women talk about how they love living on the ridge, but dread the day their kids have to go to school down below! after 20 mins of listening I ended up giving those ladies a huge piece of my mind before I paid and left.

        Look at what the ridge has done to our school’s already. Now suddenly they are worried about over crowing in the schools. But when the ridge was built no one thought about that. But now that their kids MIGHT have to go the SES it is a problem.

        I don’t give it long (10 years maybe tops) and the people up here will be petitioning to make the ridge their own town like Sammamish. They have the library, the police and fire dept.

      2. I think affordable housing is being misused. Underneath affordable housing, there is low income households and moderate income households.

        “Affordable housing” means residential housing that is rented by a person or household whose monthly housing costs, including utilities other than telephone, do not exceed thirty percent of the household’s monthly income. For the purposes of housing intended for owner occupancy, “affordable housing” means residential housing that is within the means of low or moderate-income households.

        Imagine Housing is targeting “low income housing” who are targeting those households who earn less than 60% of King County median household income. The income ranges depending family size.

        According to RCW 84.14.010, low income is defined as (9) “Low-income household” means a single person, family, or unrelated persons living together whose adjusted income is at or below eighty percent of the median family income adjusted for family size, for the county where the project is located, as reported by the United States department of housing and urban development.

        As for what is the 60% median income household for King County, it varies by family size. For a family size of 3, this would equal $47,500 “household” income. As for comparisons, Snoqualmie household median income is $120,000.


        1. Thank you Jim!

          “As for what is the 60% median income household for King County, it varies by family size. For a family size of 3, this would equal $47,500 “household” income. As for comparisons, Snoqualmie household median income is $120,000.”

          This hits the exact people I said. People like me, hard working people that want a nice place to live and raise their family. People that will be working in the new businesses opening up.

  • If the project can’t be built without a property tax subsidy, it shouldn’t be built. Period. It’s that simple. If our city council and mayor provide a tax subsidy for this project while asking the rest of us for a tax increase, they should all be recalled.

  • As a 5th Generation local here in the Valley I can’t help but sit here at laugh at you guys. Funny How the tables have turned. This goes both ways, 12 years ago Our schools were fine before the ridge was built. Now thanks to this neighborhood the rest of our taxes have gone through the roof, traffic has gone up. Do you not understand that the new businesses that are coming to the ridge are people like me, make $15 an hour, single mother, teachers etc… I know how this community is… go sit in finaghty’s for a weekend and see the filth and infidelity… the swingers clubs, domestic violence, stuck up bratty people – you want to blame low income people.

    Question these businesses that are going in up here… they are going to be paying low income wages. Where are these people suppose to live to work here? Ohhhhh let me guess you want them to stay down here where is lower valley people slum it right? Slum is slum no matter how nice your house is or how much money you make!

    The comments in this thread make me ashamed of what our Valley is turning into.

    1. Rachel – I agree with you about this comment thread… blech. Although my family has been pretty nomadic until we bought our first house (it happens to be on the Ridge) a year and a half ago, we are happy to build roots in the Valley here and raise our kids. But before becoming home-owners, we rented (with our kiddos and our dog – in an apartment! gasp!). And we would have easily qualified for “80% of the median income level” to rent affordable housing. You are right, these “low income jobs” that the comments above are talking about are any service job… well, anywhere. Teachers, firefighters, police officers, anyone working in any of the small businesses in the Valley. I cringe at the idea of any sort of “us” and “them” mentality – maybe because my family is still new to the area – because I love all the areas that the Snoqualmie Valley has to offer and I feel connected here.

      I would suggest folks do some research on what this type of project actually looks like as well as what “income qualified” means. This is not a new idea to our area: Talus, The Highlands and Downtown in Issaquah all have affordable housing buildings in their communities. No one is suggesting passing on property taxes to the rest of the property owners either.

      Before everyone starts shaking fists, let’s at least get the facts straight first.

      1. Thank you Rachel!! I 100% agree with you.

        People don’t realize that a lot of the Valley’s “Low Income” people are also the most giving and generous with their time, money and efforts to help make this Valley the best it can be for ALL our residents.

        I have lived here my whole life, as the rest of my family has too. I am raising 3 boys that are not 6th generation locals and I want them to know this place the same way I grew up knowing it.

        I have watched EVERY development big or small go in here in the valley, and I have seen and heard all the complaining when suddenly something new is going to impact their lives. Suddenly they don’t like it. It really is so baffling to me how quickly people forget that they were a part of it to begin with.

      2. To be clear, I at least, have no problem with affordable housing. I have a problem with property tax and HOA exemptions for affordable housing. Building for a set price point is perfectly fine. But if it can’t be done without tax and HOA subsidies, it shouldn’t happen. Plenty of areas on the ridge that I can’t afford either, I’m not out there asking for subsidies to make it so I can, no one else should be asking for them either. The fact that this is even considered when a property tax increase was ‘necessary’ is ludicrous.

  • The tax exemptions and waiver of builder fees provided to Imagine Housing are designed to increase the rate of return for the wealthy investors who will fund the construction of the low-income housing project at S-20. Additionally, these investors will receive substantal federal tax benefits through the Low-income Housing Tax Credit program offered under Section 42 of the Internal Revenue Code. The local tax benefits act as a force-multiplier to the already generous tax benefits these outside wealthy investors receive.

    It is important to note that, at 160 units, the proposed development is 250% larger than any other development built or run by Imagine Housing. Together with the fact that this development would go in the smallest city with the lowest commercial tax tax, demonstrates this development is out of all proportion to the surrounding area. Moreover, there has been no evidence provided by the proponents of this development that such a project will do nothing by exascerbate the crowding conditions within the school district.

    It is also important to note that a substantial portion of Snoqualmie’s revenue comes from 1-time builder permitting fees and this revenue stream will terminate upon the completion of Eagle Point. As a result, not only will the city experience a shortfall in revenues at the time the low-income housing project would be completed, it will see increased costs associated with providing public safety and other services to the development. Since the city’s commerical tax base is small, the city will have no choice to make up the shortfall by increasing residential real property taxes. This fiscal situation will be made worse if City Council and the mayor irresponsibly grant the tax abatements sought by Imagine Housing.

    Finally, it is important to note that a majority of the Snoqualmie City Council up for re-election in 2013, as is Mayor Larson. Opponents should make their voices heard with Snoqualmie city leadership such that this low-income housing project becomes an unfavorable political issue in the 2013 city elections. While non-residents can attempt to dictate the land-use policies of the city, ultimately the mayor and city council are beholden to the Snoqualmie voters and it is their concerns that are paramount.

    1. Thank you Mark H. You have pointed out the facts as I know them. I do not have any problem with Low income housing but the true benefit of a tax or HOA exemption would be to the developer. I do not think the Mayor and Council would ask for an emergency tax increase and then not be able to see the significant impact any tax exemption would have on the community. Also I think that there is a distinction between low income home owners, like Habitat for Humanity, and renters as in this proposal. I could support a low income housing development based on ownership not rentals, with the developer paying the impact fees necessary to fund the impact on city and school services.

    2. Between 2010-2014, the city is expected to spend $2,800,000 more than what it is bringing. The city’s beginning cash balance 2010 is $15.5M and is forecasted to decrease to $12.7M by 2014.

      If the city approves tax exemption, this removes $900,000 additional tax revenue over a 12 year period directly tied to the city. Additionally, when they make this decision, it actually approves full state/county tax exemption on the property. This is another $2,700,000 taxes exempt (which some of it filters to the local school district).

      Imagine Housing has also asked to waiver permit fees. This is a one time fee waiver of $600,000. ($531,000 building permits fees + $18,500 water fees + $19,200 Review fees).

      Lastly, the city has a city law (?) which was approved years ago which states non-profits do not have to pay the one time school impact fees. This is roughly $3,200 per unit or $600,000. (City of Snoqualmie Resolution 1163: SVSD Capital Facilities Plan 2012)

      Therefore, total tax & permit waivers equals $4,800,000 over 12 years.
      – Direct to the city = $1,500,000
      – Direct to school district = $600,000
      – Direct to King County = $2,700,000

  • For all the cry baby yuppies that are not smart enough to research the actual impact affordable housing has on a neighborhood here is a link to a paper done on the subject with references to actual scientific research done. Get your noses out of the air and stop thinking you are better than the rest of the human race because the money in your wallet does not define who you are. Get a clue!

  • If the best the proponents can come up with is a grad-student authored, results-oriented study that is published by an entity that facilitates the development of low-income housing; the opponents can sleep easy tonight.

  • Thank you Jim! I hope you are going to the meeting on Wednesday to present these impacts. $4.8M of Revenue losses over 12 years is staggering.
    Rachel: Not everyone on the Ridge is “hoity-toity” or well off. My son and his wife purchased an affordable housing cottage in 2007. They are currently paying property taxes, which have now been increased to $2.99/per $1,000 of assessed value. In comparison, the City of Medina (where Bill Gates lives) residents are only paying $1.08/per $1,000 of assessed value. Snoqualmie residents property tax rate factor is almost 3 times that of Medina. Affordable housing is fine, but I think that everyone who receives city services should pay property tax accordingly.

  • Added context on school impact fees… I mentioned above there is a city resolution which exempts non-profits from school impact fees. Based on 160 units, this would total $600,000. This is regardless of whether or not the city approves the property value tax exemption. This $600,000 is a separate issue which I believe cannot be undone.

    The maximum residency under the June 2012 IH plan was 800 residents. Speaking with Imagine Housing, 50% of their residents located in other properties are children. Therefore, max # of students coming into school district could be 400 children with no additional tax base. Since the 400 children is a max # estimate, lets cut that in half, and you still have 200 additional students with no tax base.

    While I do not have the answers, it is worrisome we could have this many additional students without the added funding (unless it is coming from somewhere else?).

    1. Suggestion for a good blog post:

      What are the details of the legal agreements that supposedly require low income housing, and what are the ramifications of not doing so? What are the total taxes and fees (including HOA fees) that would be collected on this project with and without the exemptions being requested? Where does each city council member, the mayor, and each member of the ROA board stand on the exemptions requested (and if they support the exemptions, do they view this as fulfilling their fiduciary duty to current citizens and taxpayers)?

      1. I have done a good amount of research myself which some of it is summarized above from reviewing city documents, speaking to city staff, and my own external research. All of which has been presented to our mayor, city attorney, and city manager. send me your email address, I can send over.

        Happy to share or help with the blog post (from a citizen’s perspective).

        At a high level on legal agreements… During Phase I, it was agreed to have 30% of the 2,000 Ridge homes allocated for affordable units. 20% for HHs >80% median income which met through market conditions; and 10% for HHs <80% median income; initial sales needed to meet requirement by developer, and conduct periodic monitoring which became cost prohibitive; resolved through Quadrant land donation for Habit for Humanity. These neighborhoods included Stellar Ave, Echo Ridge Apts (no longer designated for 80% or less than 80%. 278 credits were required to the Phase II developer. The original destinations were Grove Street and Strouf Ave located in the Heights – 50 cottages. Hancock Ave was also designated with 46 cottages. All of these have been built. Included in the 278 credit system was to have rentals located in two unspecified parcels located in Phase II (majority Eagle Pointe). In 2009, the developer (SRII LLC – joint venture between Murray Franklin and Quadrant) persuaded the city to combine the remaining requirement to be located on one specified parcel (S20 in Eagle Pointe) with a total number of 120 units if 60% HH is achieved or 184 units at 80% household income. (Imagine Housing is building 160 units serving 60% which is 40 more units than the requirement). The consolidation occurred in 2009 because the developer stressed it could not find a suitor willing to build on two separate parcels for economies of scale. At a high level, this makes sense, but when you look at the average low income housing project in East King County and Snoqualmie, it is 45 units. I am not intimate into the details on the economic analysis, but this comes across confusing.

        While the state and county provide guidelines to cities what % should be allocated to affordable housing, there is not a legal requirement. The city has their own planning comprehensive plans. The only legal agreement exists between SRII LLC and City of Snoqualmie to have Parcel S20 designated for <80% household income. Not being a legal expert, I suspect the city can renegotiate with SRII LLC, but unsure what could occur.

        Lastly for HOA dues – This is not within city decision making, so they would respectfully point you to the Ridge ROA. In the Ridge ROA governing documents, the board is allowed to offer full exemption or discount to non-profits at their discretion. Last I heard, HOA offered $75 annual assessment per unit. Eagle Pointe has an additional assessment and my understanding nothing has been said about this.

        Note for both the tax exemption and HOA dues, it is applied to Imagine Housing, and not the specific residents.

        I am supportive of affordable housing, but worried about the size, limited access to amenities (walk score of 3), and tax exemption. As I mentioned above, the average size in East King County is 45 units per location which is aligned with existing Snoqualmie affordable housing. This project would be the 5th largest project in East King County, and Imagine Housing’s largest. The average Imagine Housing project is 35 units, so this would be 4.5x larger than their average. Their current largest is 60 units with Francis Village.

        I recommend you reach out to the mayor and city council members. You will find they are responsive to emails and respectful. I have sent many mails to learn more, and they (+ city staff) have been certainly helpful educating me on various city topics.

        I have asked each about their position on tax exemption. Since there has not been a formal request by Imagine Housing, they do not have a position.

        Here are the emails – all of which can be found on the city’s website.
        Mayor Matt Larson –
        Bob Jeans –
        Jeff MacNicholas –
        Charles Peterson –
        Maria Henriksen –
        Kathi Prewiit –
        Kingston Wall –
        Bryan Holloway –

  • IMPACT FEES: I also confirmed that no school impact fees will be collected. But it is not just a gift for this non-profit. It was negotiated long ago and is not the only example of impact fees going to the way-side. Any house (single family/ owner occupied) which was permitted/platted in Snoqualmie between December 2010 and ~May of 2012 was NOT charged a school impact fee (Kimball Creek, Eagle Point, Astor Park). The city, unilaterally and without the consent of the school district, stopped collecting the school impact fee during that period of time. The for-profit builders in the area were given a defacto “tax exemption” (although an impact fee is not really a tax) for a year and a half and the district lost roughly $700,000 of potential funding (which is designated solely to mitigate growth). The story is easy to track online. However, with such a savings (or leverage/ability to sell at a lower price and attract buyers) for these national companies, it certainly would be nice to see those construction firms (besides just Quadrant) on the list of big donors for the Schools Foundation. They are conspicuously absent from the list of school/teacher/student supporters and some of the biggest companies in our Valley.
    RENTALS: The Echo Ridge Apartments here on the Ridge are not part of the Ridge Association, according the ROA office. They do not pay dues, nor do they receive the benefits of membership. They maintain their own space. According to the company that manages/owns those apartments, when first built a certain number of units were designated “affordable housing”. These units were grandfathered out. When income qualified residents moved out, the unit no longer was designated for that purpose. The units are no longer “affordable housing”, however if an original resident were still there, it would still hold the designation. Not the same situation, but a consideration.

    1. Hey Nancy,
      I believe the city did collect impact fees during the time period you are referring. They just didn’t collect the full impact fee of around $8,000 until the indemnification issues were solved with regards to any potential legal issues. I believe an impact fee of about $2700 was collected for each new permitted house during that time period. The indemnification and legal issues had to be resolved due to the impact fee jumping by 300% in just one year and builders were talking about lawsuits due to the large increase. Since the city does not set the fee, only is a collector of it, Snoqualmie was ensuring it was fully indemnified in any potential suit. The City of North Bend also requested the same indemnification before collecting the fee last year. So yes, builders were charged an impact fee, just not full fee for that time period you reference. Good news is, the issues are solved and North Bend and Snoqualmie are collecting this year’s $8500 impact fee now. ~Danna

  • Danna, you believe correctly on the reduced amount $2700 having been collected. Memory lapse -good grief. If I recollect correctly, North Bend has always assessed the full amount (as has SVSD areas included in Redmond, Sammamish, and unincorporated King County) but added the indemnification along with re-approval. I still think the $700,000 is about what the district’s calculated the loss. The City of Snoqualmie leadership has served me very well, but on THIS single subject – I beg to differ.The point I was trying to hit was that Imagine Housing is not the first group (or potential wave of new residents) to move in and not have the fee to cover what the impact fee formula determined as our need nor are they the first multi-unit rentals with affordable housing and no ROA fees (no membership either though) on the Ridge. Might give some context to people trying to fill in some pieces to the story of the development of the area. And yes – fabulous that the monies are now being collected. I still hope to see the builders on the list of donors at the SVSchools Foundation Spring Luncheon.

  • Living Snoqualmie