At the heart of our mission is increasing the economic and cultural vitality of the Methow Valley. One of the ingredients of a healthy community and thriving economy is equitable access to affordable housing.
Recognizing that the local housing crisis in the Methow Valley is dire and complex, TwispWorks is pleased to be working with a group of nonprofit leaders to learn from other communities who have faced similar challenges and find solutions that can work here. Since October 2020, Danica Ready, the Executive Director of the Methow Housing Trust, Kelly Edwards from Room One, Jasmine Minbashian from the Methow Valley Citizens Council and Don Linnertz from TwispWorks have been exploring what other rural, resort communities have been doing to address affordable housing for locals. In February 2021, the group added Sarah Brooks from the Methow Conservancy to aid in facilitation.
The Methow Housing Solutions Network recognized immediately they are not a group of housing specialists. Don Linnertz, TwispWorks’ Executive Director pointed out that “from the start, the group named the value of hearing about the housing challenge from all sides”, noting “the work would not be complete without input and buy-in from the diverse set of people who see this issue from different aspects. This collaborative approach brings together our community and puts us in a better position to get to work on what is possible.”
The collaboration, now calling itself Methow Housing Solutions Network, is grounded in a straightforward mission statement: “We believe that all local community members should have a stable place to call home. We acknowledge that this is not the case right now and we recognize that if we do not address housing in the Methow Valley soon, the Valley we love may be lost.”
There are several other groups working on the housing issue in the valley, including SASH which is focusing on supported senior housing and the Methow Housing Perseverance group which features working class needs. The Methow Housing Trust was formed in 2017 in response to the lack of affordable housing after the 2014-2015 fires. The community land trust homeownership model was chosen as a first housing solution for the community because of its proven track record of immediate and lasting impact in other similar communities, and how it matched with the voices of many local lower- and middle-income community members who wish for the possibility of homeownership here in the Methow.
To date, the Network has focused on two learning efforts: exploring responses of communities facing similar challenges, like Port Townsend, Chelan, Leavenworth, San Juan Island, Sun Valley, and various Colorado counties, and listening to the Methow Valley community.
Throughout June and July, the Network held solution sessions and heard from people in need of housing, employers who are struggling to find workers because of the housing shortage, potential and current developers and builders, architects, real estate agents, housing management professionals, planners, and elected officials.
The Network has been focused on finding tangible steps the Methow Valley community can take to help address long-term rentals, seasonal and workforce housing, and opening pathways to home ownership.
Over the next two months, the Network plans to coordinate their efforts with other groups looking at local housing issues and is working on a community outreach event scheduled for September. At the event, they hope all who are working on ideas for addressing local housing needs will share their ideas and community members will be able to provide their input and get involved if they wish. Stay tuned for more information!