February 26-28, 2024
Sunnyside, WA

Affordable Housing Development with Community in Mind in Sunnyside, WA

With affordable housing demand at an all-time high, especially for Central Washington farmworker communities, Catholic Charities Housing Services is creating a high-density neighborhood in Sunnyside, WA that provides around 200 affordable homes along with community connector amenities such as green spaces, community centers, and avenues for personal and professional growth. CIRD worked with CCHS, local stakeholders, and community residents to more deeply explore these neighborhood concepts.
Sunnyside residents discuss future site plans with local resource team members. Photo credit, Ob Cruz.

Background and Workshop Challenge

Sunnyside is a majority-Latino, agricultural community located in Yakima County, Washington, surrounded by rich farmland planted with acres of apple, wine grapes, and hops. The Latino community in Sunnyside - especially farmworkers - struggles to access quality housing and financial services, credit and wealth building opportunities, and other basic family resources. These residents not only work the surrounding fields but are part of the community’s civic core. While not solely limited to serving farmworkers, Catholic Charities Housing Services (CCHS) is focusing on a development that elevates the voices and culture of Sunnyside’s Latino farmworker community through a thoughtful and integrated design process.

Sunnyside's local resource team get to work, strategizing prior to community events. Photo credit, Ob Cruz.

From the beginning, CCHS Housing Director, Bryan Ketcham, has understood the significance of this project and placed unique importance on community engagement during the design process. Prior to joining the 2023-2024 CIRD Local Design Cohort, Bryan and his team issued a Call for Proposals from Washington-based architecture firms who specialize in community-engaged design. It was this genuine commitment to community-focused design that drew CIRD to Sunnyside.

In partnership with Framework, a Washington community design firm based in Seattle, CCHS selected SMR Architects to help turn a recently acquired 75-acre lot into a thriving Sunnyside neighborhood. Alongside local officials, services providers, stakeholders, and most importantly, residents, CCHS explored design opportunities that centered around the community’s vision.  

Workshop Process

Site visit: On October 20, 2023, CIRD staff visited Sunnyside to gain a better understanding of the recently acquired land, the relationship between CCHS and the Sunnyside community, and the other areas of opportunity for local engagement. This visit helped CIRD better understand and identify some initial priorities and potential challenges while also refining CIRD’s scope in a broader design process.

CIRD staff work with the local design team on design concepts presented by community members. Photo credit, Ob Cruz.

Virtual engagement: Starting in September, 2023, CIRD hosted several virtual meetings with the Sunnyside local resource team including CCHS, Washington Office of Rural and Farmworker Housing (ORFH), Framework, AHBL, and SMR Architects, who were selected as the local architecture firm after CCHS’s Call for Proposals. The Sunnyside local resource and design team was larger than usual- Bryan Ketcham (CCHS), Sergio Garcia (CCHS), Chris Lambert (CCHS), Charles Hitchcock (ORFH), Jose Farias (ORFH), Kate Smith (SMR), Augusta Milford (SMR), Scott Star (SMR), Leslie Bain (Framework), Jeff Arango (Framework), Kristin Kildall (AHBL), Maria de Jesus Arévalo-Martinez (AHBL) – but all played a vital role during these meetings, collecting valuable information, and providing community context leading up to the workshop. The CIRD team included Candace Maloney-Franklin (TBD Studio), Caitlin MacKenzie (TBD Studio), and Manda LaPorte (HAC). During these conversations, the team assigned roles for the workshop, discussed engagement strategies, and prepared for the upcoming design process.

CIRD Local Design Workshop – February 26-28: Workshop activities kicked off with several community focus groups, including time spent with local business owners, officials, and city planners. Day one ended with an evening open house event where residents, including the farmworkers, were able to engage in several design charettes that captured initial community preferences for parks and playgrounds, community center activities, small business development opportunities, and site design. Although weather conditions hampered turnout the local design team took this opportunity to dive deep into design elements with participants, while CCHS staff worked on community outreach to increase attendance the next day.  

On day two, focus groups continued with CCHS development partners and Sunnyside residents. During these sessions, the design team was able to pin down some leading priorities for the community while keeping building regulations in mind.

Additionally, CCHS had in-depth conversations with potential funders for the multi-family units, single-family units, and programming for the future community center. Representatives from USDA Rural Development, the WA Department of Commerce, the Yakima County Commissioner, and more engaged in meaningful conversations about project funding for this multifaceted project. Ultimately, it was understood that CCHS will need multiple investors and funders to make this project a reality, and these conversations set the stage.

On the final day, the CIRD design partners at TBD Studio (Candace Maloney-Franklin and Caitlin MacKenzie) led the local resource and design team in creating two alternate site plans using the information collected throughout the workshop.

Community members discuss what aspects of the new design concepts work best for their families. Photo credit, Ob Cruz.

Before closing out, the Sunnyside community was invited back that evening to engage with these new design concepts. CIRD and the design partners were focused on gaining an even deeper understanding of site preferences, including public gathering spaces, community facilities, additional amenities, and overall layout. The community showed up! Residents gave honest feedback and commentary while also expressing excitement and hope fort his development.


Overall, the Sunnyside workshop provided valuable community perspectives that will be incorporated into the rest of the design challenge. Residents noted, above all else, they want this new development to be a safe place for their families to live, play, and work together. They emphasized the need for a well-integrated community for both the rental and owner-occupied units. They expressed a desire for a community center that was easily accessible for the whole community and that provided activities for all age groups. Most importantly, they voiced the deep need for this development – new, affordable housing opportunities with the community in mind.

Next Steps

In partnership with SMR, AHBL, and Framework, the CIRD design team will finalize two site designs and present them in a final design book. With project implementation more than two years away, this design book will serve as a resource throughout the development of this project. CCHS will be able to utilize the book and take it back to the community, while simultaneously pursuing funding opportunities. Community engagement is far from over. However, CCHS will now have a solid foundation moving forward.

Additionally, CCHS will remain in the CIRD Design Learning Cohort throughout 2024. This program will continue to offer additional resources including access to CIRD’s technical assistance experts and peer-to-peer learning opportunities with other rural community leaders. CCHS’s experience throughout this design challenge will inform ongoing design work and conversations throughout rural America.

Read more in our story about the rural farmworker experience and CCHS's goals for the project.

Sunnyside's Local Resource Team and CIRD staff after the final day of the Local Design Workshop. Photo credit, Ob Cruz.