PORT TOWNSEND — Jefferson County is one step closer to making a dent in the affordable housing crisis.
On Monday, the three county commissioners unanimously approved a letter of intent with Olympic Community Action Programs (OlyCAP) to make county-owned property in the Castle Hill neighborhood available for a proposed low-income housing development.
The letter of intent allows OlyCAP to pursue funding for the project, which is expected to offer 44 studio to three-bedroom apartments to people who are below 50 percent of median household income, or about $35,000 a year.
OlyCAP will either purchase the property or enter into a long-term lease agreement.
Half of the units will be for people who are homeless or are at risk of homelessness. Also part of the plan is a community child care center on the lower level that might be an E-CAP or Head Start facility.
The project’s preliminary budget is $15.5 million, with most of the funding originating from outside the county.
Three quarters of it will come from a low-income tax credit investor and a private bank loan. The other quarter will come from state funds. A small portion of local funding will be in the form of land donation and some of the county’s affordable housing funds.
Construction costs are expected to be around $10 million.
Construction is expected to begin in September 2020 and to be completed within 14 months.
The half-acre parcel is located southwest of the intersection of Seventh and Hendricks streets, adjacent to the county’s community development, public health and public works departments. It is near transit, services and Jefferson Healthcare. It is hoped that the location will eliminate the need for private cars.
“This property was identified in 2013 as a potential government property that could possibly be made available for affordable housing,” County Administrator Philip Morley said.
Central Services Director Mark McCauley said there will be a couple public hearings on the project as it moves forward. The county will either sell the property or lease it to OlyCAP for 75 years with the proviso that it can be used only for the stated purpose.
The county also has an interlocal agreement with Jefferson Healthcare for parking at the property, and the county would need to obtain any necessary authorization from them to make the property available. The lot received a new layer of paving two weeks ago.
“In 2017, commissioners declared a housing emergency in Jefferson County and nothing has gotten better since then,” Morley said. “We still have problems with affordable housing. It is one of the top priorities and pressing problems facing our community today.”
OlyCAP Executive Director Dale Wilson said his nonprofit has been looking at partnering with the county to solve some of the need.
“Housing over the past decade has created conditions that are threatening our socio-economic and community at every level. It has not gotten any better, it has only gotten worse.”
Throughout the past several months OlyCAP has been pulling together the project team. OlyCAP’s Kathy Morgan will take the lead. Other team members include Seattle architects Third Place Design Cooperative, Port Townsend’s Terrapin Architecture, Philippa Nye from Aly Community Development, local legal counsel Collette Kostelec, and Seattle-based law firm Kantor Taylor, whose specialty is low income tax credit counsel.
“In the county, 1,540 people are housing cost-burdened, and there has been an increase of 90 people in the homeless count this year,” Nye said. “The numbers are large and getting greater. It’s been over a decade where there has been a significant project that addresses a multi-family rental in Jefferson County. There’s a gap that we’re intending to fill.
“We’re cobbling together a whole lot of money from different places,” she said. “We feel that this project is a very competitive one that will score really well for housing tax credits.”
“We are pushing forward because of the federal home loan bank grant and applications are due at the end of May,” Nye said. “This gives you significant points for below market lease or sale. We figured out what we need for competitiveness and it’s almost a complete donation or a low-market lease. That’s our first $500,000. It’s one of the more difficult ones to get but it is leverage for all the rest of the funding.”
Jefferson County Reporter Jeannie McMacken can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at [email protected].