Community Giving, Local Real Estate

Affordable Housing Complex Merritt Manor Nears Opening

A month away from welcoming its first residents, a highly anticipated affordable housing development in Olympia held its grand opening Thursday, a cause to celebrate in a region grappling with soaring housing prices and a shortage of affordable housing.

“A lot of things had to go right for this project to become a reality,” said Glenn Wells, a local architect who, along with developer Scott Wammack, created Fourth Street Housing LLC, the property’s owner.

Still an active construction site, Merritt Manor is scheduled to open late next month on the former Bailey Motor Inn site on Martin Way East. The 82 two- and three-bedroom apartments will be for families making 60-80 percent of the area’s median household income. Last year, that was about $74,700, according to an estimate from the state’s Office of Financial Management.

Supporters say it will provide much needed relief in Olympia’s tight rental market, where nearly a quarter of renters spend at least half their household income on housing, according to a recent report from Apartment List.

The $16 million project is a partnership among Fourth Street Housing, Olympia Federal Savings and the nonprofit Help Us Move In, founded by Ann Sarver-Merritt and her brother Burt, which provided the money to buy the property back in 2017.

The complex will be managed by the nonprofit Homes First and the for-profit real estate company Prime Locations.

Homes First CEO Trudy Soucoup said it is rare to see an affordable housing project by a private developer. Merritt Manor is the first project to receive a 12-year multifamily tax exemption for affordable housing developments by private developers since the city of Olympia started offering the exemption.

Soucoup told those at the grand opening that cities and nonprofits can’t address the housing challenges alone.

“We need to invite everybody to the housing table to be able to make the housing crisis we’re in right now go away,” Soucoup said.