June 26, 2008

Seniors Check Out New Digs in Kennewick

By Ingrid Stegemoeller, Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, Wash.

Jun. 26--Nancy and Charlie Young moved into their new apartment less than a week ago, but they're settling in quickly.

"It just makes you feel like you're at home," Nancy Young said of their space at Edison Terrace West, a new low-income independent living facility for seniors. "We were really lucky."

A dedication and grand- opening celebration Wednesday commemorated the completion of the 42,000-square-foot Kennewick building that has 44 units.

About 10 are filled, said Rich Barchet, chairman of SEC Affordable Housing, which developed the project.

He's looking for the rest to be occupied by the end of the summer.

"This is a team effort. A lot of people worked very hard to get this building done," Barchet told a group of nearly 100 who gathered for the festivities.

Funding for the project came from a $4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, as well as $800,000 from the Washington State Housing Trust Fund, a division of the state Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development.

State Rep. Shirley Hankins, R-Richland, is a member of the Capital Budget Committee, which supplies money for the Housing Trust Fund, she said.

"This is wonderful," Hankins told the Herald at the event. "These are the kinds of projects I like to see our money going into."

Apartments are available to seniors 62 and older with annual incomes below 50 percent of the area's median income, or $21,650 for a single person and $24,750 for a couple in 2007.

Annual rent and utilities combined cost no more than 30 percent of residents' gross adjusted income, Barchet said.

SEC Affordable Housing got started in the 1990s and has developed two other facilities for low-income seniors, Tri-Cities Terrace West and East, as well as Tri-Cities Terrace South, for adults with developmental disabilities.

The group plans to keep looking for more sites and to "put another dent in the senior housing market," said David Watrous, secretary for SEC Affordable Housing.

The new building features three fully handicap-accessible rooms, exercise facilities, community space, laundry facilities on each of the three floors and a computer lab, which is part of HUD's Neighborhood Networks program.

The lab is designed to keep seniors connected and foster partnerships, said Renee Greenman, HUD's multi-family HUB director.

Congratulations, prayers and smiles abounded during the gathering.

Kennewick City Council members, a representative from Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell's office and others took tours of the apartments, ate refreshments and talked about the new building.

Barchet, who's been chairman since 1999, said hearing seniors tell him, "This is the nicest place I've ever lived," keeps him working to create more affordable housing.

"This project meets only the tip of the iceberg of need," he said.


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