Yakima nonprofit breaks ground on new affordable housing development

YAKIMA, Wash. — Yakima Valley Partners Habitat for Humanity broke ground Wednesday on a new development project to provide low-income families with affordable housing.

The Vine development at 1502 Conrad Ave. in Yakima — near South 24th and West Mead avenues — will eventually provide homes for 10 families through the nonprofit’s HomeBuild program, which gives people the opportunity to help build and buy their own homes.

“Our goal is to build probably three houses a year here, so it will take us three to five years to build this out,” said Meloney Rosen, Executive Director of Yakima Valley Partners Habitat for Humanity.

Rosen said they hope to have 10 single-family, detached homes, which will be the first local Habitat homes to rely on solar power by 2026. She said the project is the combined effort of several community partners, including:

  • The Washington State Housing Finance Commission, which is financially supporting the Vine project and granted Habitat the ability to purchase the land for affordable housing.
  • Yakima Federal Savings and Loan Association, which offers low interest loans to future homeowners accepted into Habitat’s HomeBuild program.
  • Vern Forenpohar Sons Excavating, which helps Habitat with the removal of trees or brush,  installation of a new water line, home infrastructure and other services.

Rosen said students enrolled in the construction, electrical, plumbing and HVAC programs at Perry Technical Institute are also helping with the project and are a key component of the development.

“It’s a great way for us to give back to the community and help our students to use their skill set and improve their skills,” said Christine Cote, president of Perry Technical Institute. “They also get to know the family that is going to be moving into that home.”

Cote said this is the fifth house Perry Tech students have built for the HomeBuild program.

Students broke ground on the first home Wednesday, which is going to Debrah Gress and her two teenage daughters. Gress said once the house is complete, her 13-year-old and 18-year-old daughters will have their own rooms for the first time.

“I’m ecstatic; excited does not express it enough,” Gress said. “I think it’s just going to be positive all the way around.”

Gress applied for the program in June 2020 and her application was approved last October. She said she appreciates the volunteers, community organizations, students and loved ones who worked to make it happen.

“I’m so grateful for them — for all of them,” Gress said.

Rosen said in order to apply for the HomeBuild program, applicants must be a legal resident or citizen of the United States and make between 30% and 80% of the area median income.

“The way our program works is, over time, people are paying us back for their houses,” Rosen said. “They have to prove that they have the ability to pay a mortgage and they also have to show a willingness to partner with us in the build.”

According to the website, “to become a homeowner, applicants must meet income and credit requirements, have a manageable level of debt, and be willing to complete up to 500 hours of ‘sweat equity’ helping to build their home alongside our construction team and volunteers.”

More information about the Yakima Valley Partners Habitat for Humanity’s HomeBuild program can be found here.