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Historic Homes recycled for Affordable Housing in Friday Harbor

473 Grover St, Friday Harbor, WA, USA

Building Type




Mike Bertrand | Town of Friday Harbor

David Gow | owner
Peter Kilpatrick | builder
Nickel Bros. | Specialty Contractor
Mike Bertrand | approving-official

San Juan Community Home Trust (Trust) recycled twelve homes with historic character for the second phase of the Sunrise permanently affordable housing development. The neighborhood features reclaimed homes from Victoria, Canada moved by barge and track vehicle to their current locations in Friday Harbor, Washington. Homes were inspected by engineers for integrity before transport and permitted as renovations to existing structures.

All structures moved into place at Sunrise II were considered existing structures, so only needed permits for updates and renovations. This required approved foundation plans, utility rough-in inspections and permits for decks and outdoor walkways. Because the homes were constructed prior to 1940, they had “stood the test of time” according to permitting official Mike Bertrand. This reduced some planning phase work including drafting blueprints. By working with a firm out of Vancouver, BC that specializes in moving homes over water – Nickel Bros. – local firm Ravenhill Construction gained experiencein home recycling, moving from Victoria to Friday Harbor, learning to identify engineering best practices for longevity and structural integrity. The 12 units are considered condominiums within the three phase Sunrise development on the edge of Friday Harbor on land owned by the Trust and approved in a multi-phase development of 120 units.

Code Requirement Compliance Path
2012 Washington Residential Code, section 102.7.2 requires moved buildings to comply with all codes, except if the use classification is unchanged, and the original building is not substantially remodeled. Homes were existing moved structures without substantial remodel, so building officials required developers to follow the town building permit guidelines for foundation planning, rough in utilities, and exterior features including decking; but other requirements did not apply due to exception in 102.7.2.

The Sunrise II neighborhood is a recycled home community installed in an 8 unit per acre density with common foot paths between shared remote parking.  The whole development follows Low Impact Development standards, including rainwater catchment and stormwater mitigation ponds for street runoff. In 2017, gravel roads serve as pathways between the neighborhoods and as parking lots. The community is pursuing Net-Zero recognition, employing solar, LEDs and developing a water reclamation facility to reduce strain on municipal water resources. The community includes both one and two story homes with new additions of exterior walkways to fit new locations and some interior renovations to improve livability. Most of the work on each home was finishing details after installing plumbing and electrical connections. The demolition crews removed lower sections of wall to expose utilities, and retrofits were made on site in Friday Harbor. The homes are all unique to one another and given the name of the street where they were originally located in Victoria.

The San Juan Island community is a unique refuge for Western Washingtonians who seek a life off the I-5 corridor. With more sunny days and an arid climate compared with the nearby Skagit valley, the island is a vacation destination for thousands of tourists every summer. The service and tourism industry continues to grow, causing an increasing demand for affordable housing options in the community. Friday Harbor is expanding housing options with annexation of the 15 acre Sunrise community site. Sunrise seeks to create an opportunity for families to build equity on moderate income while living in Friday Harbor. Increasingly a retirement community, year-round service sector jobs for an aging community require affordable long-term housing options.

Classified as a condominium community on land owned by the Trust, the three phase development permit was conditional to increase affordable housing on the islands. A county government with strict development regulations to maintain the rural and private nature of the island community, this recent annexation area by the Town of Friday Harbor encouraged maximum density for service employees and other low to moderate income full-time residents. To qualify as a lessor in Sunrise, applicant’s annual income must be 80-120% of the median county income of about $33,000, between about $26,000 and $40,000.

Nickel’s Bros. “rescues”  homes from demolition and delivers to various locations near the Salish Sea shoreline. The Trust contracted with Nickel’s Bros. construction to purchase the homes and ship them across the Canada/United States border to the city of Friday Harbor. Ravenhill Construction indicated interest in single family homes built between 1900 and 1940 which would be good candidates to transport. These homes followed modest compact designs and kept appropriate building footprints for the permanently affordable community.

Over the next several months, Nickel’s Bros contacted Ravenhill with opportunities to shop for homes. Public ferry service from Friday Harbor to Victoria Canada simplified crossing the international boundary for engineering inspections. As homes were purchased, Nickel’s Bros transported houses on track vehicles taking special precautions for power lines and other delicate infrastructure. Most city streets accommodate the track vehicles but the gravel pathway at Sunrise was too narrow so the Trust rented a throughway from neighboring landowners to deliver the homes to their site in the community.

Upon arrival to the site, construction crews suspended the homes above their new resting places and then poured foundations. This allowed accuracy for the building of the foundations for the home’s new site. Once the homes were lowered onto the cured foundations, finishing crews renovated the necessary plumbing and electrical for more modern applications and utility. These renovations included rewiring and plumbing, adding pop-out additions and exterior decks and walkways, replacing previously removed drywall, updating flooring and other aesthetic features.

This project was not about saving money on construction. The concept of saving materials from the waste stream and creating a historic character to the community were both considered and valued in the process.

As the project unfolded, engineers at Ravenhill developed skills and experience in selecting homes suitable for this kind of move, an opportunity to offer consulting to other Nickels Bros. clients shopping for movable homes.

This model allows owners of the condominiums to build equity on their investment and establish permanence in their community. A resale formula governs future exchanges of ownership, allowing for the homes to be deemed permanently affordable. The financial accessibility is supported by investments from community members who value an opportunity to create a sustainable long-term and diversified community with contributing members in all stages of life.

The engineering inspection is an important phase to develop when purchasing a recycled home. A qualified and detail oriented inspector should utilize a checklist to make sure the critical utilities and home functions are operational and comply with building codes. The team realized after purchasing and delivering one of the homes that it was wired with aluminum, which has been identified as neither best practice or safe. A full building electrical retrofit was required and expensive.

David Gow
Executive Director


Peter Kilpatrick


Nickel Bros.

Specialty Contractor

Mike Bertrand
Building Officiai