Weidner Apartment Homes Buys Meadowlark for $2.7 mil.


Photo by: Megan Sokol Weidner Apartment homes has purchased a 26 acre property from Upper Valley MEND. Weidner has just completed their Leavenworth Haus project and is looking to do more apartment homes.

Upper Valley MEND sold the Meadowlark property to Weidner Apartment homes for $2.7 million. After several years of frustration and financial upheavals with the Meadowlark property, MEND hopes to reinvest the proceeds towards future affordable housing ventures.

MEND started buying the 26-acre property between Titus Road and Chumstick Highway in 2001, and had started production on it after MEND finished building 10 homes for their Aldea Village project. It was only after March of 2016 that the group concluded that Meadowlark was financially out of their hands after construction costs started to skyrocket and the Washington State Housing Trust Fund Grant, that they were counting on, fell through.

"Once we shut down the planning on that, we determined that it really wasn't feasible for us to restart development on that site. It's a very large and complicated site," Upper Valley MEND Executive Director Kaylin Bettinger explained. "It needs a lot of infrastructure. There's a lot of roads that need to go through there, water and utility connections, things like that."

After listing the property in 2017, many developers pitched their concepts to MEND, some wanting to create more second-homes and others wanting to capitalize more on vacation rentals.

"Vacation homes, overnight rental stuff in Leavenworth [...] it's challenging to do overnight rentals outside of the rental zones in town," Upper Valley MEND Board President Andrew Lane explained, "They can be done, but it is more like an AirBnB-type situation."

The best offer came from Weidner Apartment Homes, the same developers behind Leavenworth Haus and Riverside 9 in Wenatchee. Both Bettinger and Lane agreed that Weidner's business model and commitment to long-term rentals were the best fit for the Meadowlark property.

"Not only do they build them, but they continue to own them and manage them," Lane said. "Some developers will build something, sell it, then leave, but Weidner has a business model where they stay and operate, they're connected to the community, so we were kind of excited about that possibility."

The Weidner homes will be priced at market rates, meaning the units themselves will not be used for affordable housing. Upper Valley MEND has no comment or knowledge on how the units will be designed or sold.

"It's not something just like if you sell a home on the open market or if you sell it to someone, we don't know what the exact details are, what they're going to do with it," Bettinger explained.

Bettinger describes how affordable housing calculates their cost based on a tenant's income and works backwards from there.

"Affordable housing is kind of a difficult concept sometimes for people to understand because housing affordability is going to be different for everyone, depending on how much they earn," Bettinger explained. "This isn't going to be classic affordable housing. Weidner, doesn't do affordable housing. But the apartment units may be affordable to certain people who work in Leavenworth."

Part of the $2.7 million will go towards paying back Meadowlark's property debts and paying back investors. There are no final figures as of yet, however MEND hopes to divert any proceeds towards future affordable housing projects, including more development on Community Land Trust (CLT) homes, similar to those in Aldea Village and Alpine Heights.

"We're hoping that we'll add three new affordable home ownership homes to Leavenworth on Cedar Street," Bettinger said.
MEND's press release describes the process of CLT homeownership in greater detail:

"In a Community Land Trust, all homes are owned by individuals who live in the homes full time. The owner purchases the home at an affordable price. If the homeowner decides to sell the home, they must sell for an affordable price, so all subsequent homeowners have the opportunity to own an affordable home too."

Andrew Lane, who is also on the Planning Commission for the City of Leavenworth, explains their current workforce housing proposition for the City of Leavenworth.

"The city has a grant available for $400k and we applied for that grant and we're working with Borealis Builders in town. It would be kind of a partnership between MEND and Borealis Builders and the city."

Essentially MEND would put up $500k, the city would put up $400k, and Borealis Builders would build and sell the land at a reduced rate cost to them, enabling them to afford the construction of CLT homes with the current state of construction costs.

No final decision has been made on whether this will progress further. If the grant falls through, MEND hopes to reserve the funds for an affordable housing project for the future.

"We're going to honor that commitment that the community made," Lane states. "We kind of know big picture stuff at the moment, but we don't have like exact numbers and things yet."

If you are interested in getting involved with the Community Land Trust, call Upper Valley MEND at (509) 548-0408.

This is an ongoing story, so make sure to look for more developments in future issues.

 

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