Battle Ground Community United Methodist Church has finally found a use for five acres in its backyard — a Habitat for Humanity neighborhood.
Evergreen Habitat for Humanity made the announcement of the sale of the parcel during its annual fundraising breakfast Sept. 17. The land was to the north of the church located on Northeast 199th Street on the edges of Battle Ground city limits.
In an interview after the breakfast, Evergreen Habitat for Humanity Executive Director Josh Townsley said Habitat had been looking for land opportunities for the past few years as their McKibbin Commons project began to wrap up. The land purchase announcement comes as McKibbin Commons, a 10-home project in Vancouver, is almost complete. The last two homes will be dedicated Oct. 6.
The Battle Ground project has the potential of being the largest of its kind for Evergreen Habitat for Humanity, as Townsley said they were hoping for 15 to 20 homes on the five acres. They would need a zoning change to be approved by the city before those densities could be reached, however.
As part of the project, Habitat would be working with the nearby neighborhood and the city on the layout of the development and house blueprints before putting in the infrastructure to support the new homes. Townsley said it was his hope to be putting in streets and sidewalks starting in Summer 2021, breaking ground on the homes shortly after.
“Our hope would be to work with the community and surrounding neighbors to come up with something that fits everybody’s needs,” Townsley said.
Though a total project cost wasn’t available yet, he estimated the infrastructure work would be about $1.1 million, with homes potentially costing $150,000 per home if they would have similar expenses to those at McKibbin Commons.
Doing an entire development rather than purchasing land piecemeal allows Habitat to realize cost savings, Townsley explained, though he said the ability to build a sense of community among home recipients and neighbors was the biggest goal of doing the bigger projects.
Townsley said that the homes will be “permanently affordable.” Though the exact details are still being worked out he explained that if a family did eventually sell their home they would have to do so to another low-income family.
“They will still have opportunities to see some wealth creation due to appreciation, it just won’t be to the same extent as it would be on the open market,” Townsley explained.
As to who would be recipients of the new homes, Townsley said Habitat would focus their family selection process in Battle Ground. Having a large enough piece of land will allow the organization to focus on building more than buying for the next few years.
“We’ve been looking for land for several years now and just always having just enough land to get through the year,” Townsley said. “To have land that is going to last us for the next several years is a blessing, for sure.”
Battle Ground Community United Methodist Church Pastor Susan Boegli said the land had always been owned by the church since the property was bought, which happened in 1999 according to the county’s geographic information systems.
At a February 2018 meeting of fellow pastors, Boegli learned that Habitat was always looking for a property. The church had been trying to figure out what to do with the vacant parcel since the property was bought. After seeing if the organization would be interested in the property the process to sell began with nearly all congregants who took part in a vote agreeing it was the best use of the property.
The land is selling for $100,000, less than the roughly $145,000 the land was assessed at. Boegli said that Habitat’s mission made it easy to give them a sizeable discount.
“We felt that the ministry of loving our neighbor takes precedence over the fear of not being able to pay our bills,” Boegli remarked.
Boegli said one of the alternatives for the property the church considered was an assisted living or retirement community. Though Habitat would be handling the design of the community the church would have input on how an access road would come off of Northeast 199th Street through their remaining parcel.
Providing the land for the planned community was one of the things Boegli said she has been most proud about in her 12 years of ministry.
“I am so proud of my church because they really believe that they have to actually love their neighbor, not just say that they are going to love their neighbor,” Boegli said. When construction begins she encouraged Battle Ground community members to take part in the building.
“It’s just a beautiful thing to have the citizens in Battle Ground to participate in something so meaningful and so life-changing for so many families,” Boegli said.
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