It was a cloudy day in early March that changed the lives of a handful of our S’Klallam families. On that morning, members and elders were gathered for the official blessing of the new Teekalet neighborhood.
Like many communities, we struggle with affordable housing for our members. It’s a problem for which there’s no easy answer. We put resources into fixing up existing homes and have services available for homeowners to do the same, but when it comes to new housing, it’s always a challenge.
In 2009, we saw an opportunity to help alleviate some of this need. After months of careful planning, construction on the Teekalet neighborhood began. Families moved in soon after that day in early March. Teekalet includes 15 single-family homes, two apartments, and a community center.
Not only is Teekalet a welcome haven for the people who now call it ‘home’, but its an example of how new housing can be comfortable and low impact.
Teekalet’s three acres sits next to Little Boston Creek, which feeds into Port Gamble Bay. As you likely know (especially if you read this column!), the Tribe has been involved in an effort to restore and protect Port Gamble Bay. It was essential Teekalet didn’t adversely effect the land, wildlife, water quality, or subsequently the Bay.
During the planning, as much time was spent in consideration of the bear, deer, salmon, and other fish and animals that call the area home as on the comfort of Teekalet’s human residents. Teekalet’s exterior design includes a series of rain gardens and filtration systems throughout the property as well as pervious pavers in the parking areas. These measures significantly limit the amount of stormwater runoff that can reach the Creek. In addition, Teekalet replaced a handful of homes in poor condition allowing the surrounding forest to be preserved.
The same environmental concerns drove the interior design: solar shades are fitted to heat the homes in the winter and keep them cool in the summer. Every unit features energy efficient lighting and appliances. Teekalet meets Washington State’s strict Evergreen Sustainable Development standards for affordable housing.
The neighborhood’s name, Teekalet, means “brightness of the noonday sun”, which is appropriate because it sits in a rain shadow created by the Olympic Mountains, giving residents sunnier days in the heart of the Pacific Northwest. Designers took advantage of this to include porch covers with transparent panels over entryways to let the sunshine in. In addition, every room lets light in from at least two walls for a lot of natural light while reducing shadows and silhouettes.
We’re proud of Teekalet for a number of reasons. Not only is it a neighborhood with minimal environmental impacts that will house our family members for decades to come, it’s a project that couldn’t have been possible on our own.
We worked with the Washington State Housing Trust Fund, Housing and Urban Development, Indian Housing Block Grant Program, and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act on grants for funding. For aspects of the design our Tribe’s Natural Resources department worked with civil engineer Ahmis Loving, PE of Seattle. Tormod Hellwig Architects and J.M. Grinnell Contracts consulted with the Tribe’s Teekalet Housing Authority Board of Commissioners on the overall design and construction.
The families who now live at Teekalet love their new homes. We’re incredibly proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish while remaining true to our goal of restoring the Bay. Our hope for the future is to replicate or even improve upon this project because, as we’ve learned in our efforts for Port Gamble Bay, there’s no substitute for a home.
Jeromy Sullivan is chairman of the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe.