Sunny View affordable housing development finalized

Attendees of a grand opening ceremony for Sunny View Village in Freeland listen as Teri Anania

It took about seven years, was riddled with hurdles and cost $6.8 million, but it’s finally done. Sunny View Village, a 26-unit affordable or workforce housing project in Freeland, is officially complete.

“What a glorious day, seven years in the making,” said Carolyn Zielinski, assistant director of Asset Management for the National Development Council, during a grand opening ceremony this week.

The event, held Aug. 5 at Sunny View Village, was organized by the Island County Housing Authority, a state special-purpose district not affiliated with county government. The organization works to provide safe, sanitary and affordable housing to low-income and elderly residents, according to its website.

The housing authority manages several affordable housing developments on Whidbey, but this is the only one in Freeland. Sunny View is located on the south side of Highway 525, across from Harbor Avenue and opposite of Freeland’s commercial core. Eighteen units are designated for families who make 50 and 60 percent below the area median income — about $36,000 at 50 percent — and seven units are reserved for homeless housing.

One unit houses an onsite property manager.

The development received its occupancy permit May 19, and accepted its first residents on May 29. Of the 26 total units, all but two are rented and they were available to tour by attendees of Wednesday’s grand opening.

Designed as three, two and one bedroom apartments, the two two-bedroom apartments open to the public earned plenty of “oohs” and “ahs.”

“I like the size of the units,” said Leo Baldwin, a Langley resident. “I think it’s a very appropriate size for public housing.”

Baldwin said he worked in public housing for years before retiring and was there as an interested island resident. The area is attractive, handrails are built into sidewalks and  there’s plenty of parking; there’s a lot to like, he said. There were some small things that were missing, such as grab rails on bathtubs, but overall it got a passing grade.

Affordable housing experts were also please.

Catherine Reid, housing program coordinator for Island County Human Services, said she thought the project turned out “fabulously.”

It’s really wonderful,” Reid said. “Waiting for the next one.”

Joanne Pelant, housing resource coordinator for the same department, echoed the kudos. The development turned out well but additional housing is needed on Whidbey Island, she said.

“This is awesome, great start but we have a long way to go,” Pelant said.

Project leaders, however, are still catching their breaths over a very long and difficult development. Sunny View Village began in 2008 and was rife with hurdles, from community complaints, permitting requirements, financial headaches and construction problems.

“Think of challenges for a project and we had it, and we had it seven times,” said Teri Anania, the housing authority’s director, told the crowd during the grand opening.

To put it into perspective, she said the project began when her son was in middle school and he has since graduated from high school.

Anania said at the grand opening that the overall cost of the project came in at $6.8 million. That’s within the project budget, she said.

“That’s about what we spent,” she said. “We just squeaked in at that number.”

That’s about $500,000 more than the $6.3 million budget cited in recent years, however, and attempts to reach Anania Friday before press time to clarify were not successful.

Sunny View has a septic and wastewater treatment system that is unique in Washington. It was not initially planned, but was later required due to the project’s proximity to Freeland’s wells. Another hiccup concerned a drainage issue with the development’s retention pond; water was spilling onto a neighbor’s property and the problem was addressed by creating an onsite filtration system.

Anania said Wednesday she was happy Sunny View is complete and doing its job by providing workforce housing, but didn’t have any immediate plans for a new project.