Nonprofit Spotlight: Evergreen Habitat for Humanity

The homebuilding organization’s vision is ‘a world where everyone has a decent place to live’

A family is seen here at the dedication of Evergreen Habitat for Humanity’s current homebuilding project, Johnson Village. Courtesy of Evergreen Habitat for Humanity

An affiliate organization of Habitat for Humanity, Evergreen Habitat for Humanity in Clark County has been tackling housing challenges since 1991. 

“A group of volunteers gathered in a church basement with steadfast determination and ambition,” said Kelsey Castrey, major gifts & procurement manager for Evergreen Habitat for Humanity. “Their goal: to start a housing ministry in Clark County. Our current homebuilding project is named Johnson Village after founding members and longtime supporters Ray and Harriet Johnson. Ray was one of the volunteers who helped start the Evergreen Habitat affiliate.”

The mission of the organization, Castrey said, is: “Seeking to put God’s love into action, Evergreen Habitat for Humanity brings people together to build homes, communities and hope. Our organization vision is a world where everyone has a decent place to live.”

Castrey that Evergreen Habitat for Humanity is currently in the midst of big changes and major growth as an organization. Most notably, she said Evergreen Habitat has taken over management of the Clark County Habitat Store. The store had previously been managed by Evergreen’s counterpart across the river, Habitat Portland Region. Castrey said they’ve been helping Evergreen Habitat manage their store for several years as they were a small, growing affiliate and the Portland one had the capacity to do so. All proceeds from the area stores were divided amongst the three area Habitat affiliates, so Castrey said they saw significant benefits from that and are very grateful for that partnership.

“Due to the growth (the organization has seen), we decided it was time that we take over management of our own store and ensure that all donations and all proceeds from the Clark County Habitat Store always remain local and are invested right here into Clark County, always,” she said.

An Evergreen Habitat for Humanity volunteer works to help build a house for a family in need. Courtesy of Evergreen Habitat for Humanity

Evergreen Habitat also recently launched the Habitat Home Trust, which Castrey said allows the organization to ensure that each home they build will always remain affordable.

“After thoughtful consideration of the local affordable housing need, the diminishing affordable housing stock and the lasting impact we seek to have in our community, we decided to create a way for all future Habitat homes to be permanently affordable,” she said. “This means that, while a traditional Habitat home is affordable for one family through the duration of a 30-year mortgage, the Habitat Home Trust will ensure that each home we build remains affordable forever, and can only be re-sold to hard-working, low-income families.”

Castrey said homebuyers still collect equity on their homes through the shared equity model, and receive all of the benefits of Habitat homeownership, while also helping to create a legacy well beyond their own family. She said the Johnson Village nine-home development as well as the 42-home project in partnership with Vancouver Housing Authority will make up the first 50-plus homes in the Habitat Home Trust, beginning the legacy of ensuring families in the community will always be able to find a decent place to live.

Evergreen Habitat for Humanity has always worked in partnership with families who were priced out of traditional housing opportunities, and Castrey said that this is still true today, just on a much larger scale as the need has grown so significantly. 

“Habitat continues to serve families by providing a permanent solution for families experiencing housing instability, while also playing a key role in the local housing continuum,” she said. “Through Habitat’s homeownership program, families are able to purchase homes through affordable mortgages, designed not to exceed 30% of a families’ income. Evergreen Habitat’s priority is to meet this growing need through our upcoming projects, the Johnson Village neighborhood and the Habitat Home Trust sites.”

Currently, Castrey said Evergreen Habitat is in the beginning stages of building the Johnson Village neighborhood, and in the coming year will also be taking on the first set of homes in partnership with the Vancouver Housing Authority. She said infrastructure is complete at Johnson Village and contractors have finished the road and sidewalks. A sound wall is a code requirement from the city and helps reduce traffic noise from 162nd, which has also been completed. Castrey said they have submitted their plans for home permits and hope to begin pouring foundations in the fall of 2022. The other 42 Habitat Home Trust sites will be taken on in 2023 and 2024.

Like every other nonprofit organization in the area, Evergreen Habitat for Humanity has also faced several challenges stemming from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Castrey said the city of Vancouver, Clark County and the greater metropolitan region is strained on every level of housing, from shelters to housing assistance and vouchers, to homeownership. She said the region has been facing this challenge well before the 2016 declaration of a Housing Emergency by the city of Vancouver, and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated this challenge in countless ways. 

According to the Clark County Community Needs assessment adopted in 2021, Castrey said that housing is one of the most important needs of survey participants with nearly one-half identifying this as one of their primary needs. She said that 64% of all survey participants identified housing affordability as their primary challenge in securing housing. On an even deeper level, Castrey said Evergreen Habitat has also taken on the challenge of doing all they can to ensure their existing Habitat homeowners remain safe and secure in their homes through the pandemic.

“Because each of our homeowners pay a monthly mortgage payment to us, which we use to carry out our programs, sudden job losses, cuts in hours and other circumstances that left homeowners unable to pay their mortgages in full affected our organization on many levels,” Castrey said. “Through incredible community support, we were able to provide critical mortgage assistance while families got back on their feet. Finally, one of the biggest challenges we saw and continue to grapple with as we take on our next homeownership and home repair projects is simply the rising costs of lumber and building materials, as well as the time it takes to order supplies. We continue to lean heavily on our community and out local partnerships to move our work forward in the most efficient and cost-effective way possible within the current conditions.”

To learn more about Evergreen Habitat for Humanity and what you can do to help, visit their website at

Joanna Yorke-Payne
Joanna Yorke is the managing editor of the Vancouver Business Journal. She has worked in the journalism field since 2010 after graduating from the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University in Pullman. Yorke worked at The Reflector Newspaper in Battle Ground for six years and then worked at and helped start

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