OlyCAP proposes affordable housing project in Port Townsend

PORT TOWNSEND — Olympic Community Action Programs has a preliminary plan for building affordable housing in Jefferson County.

The plan is to build 44 units of affordable housing and an early childhood education center on county-owned property at Seventh and Hendricks streets in Port Townsend.

“The time is long overdue to move past talking about the need for affordable housing and begin as our name would indicate, take action and do something about creating real housing opportunity,” said Dale Wilson, Olympic Community Action Programs (OlyCAP) executive director, in a press release issued Friday.

“OlyCAP is inviting the entire community to join us in the building of multi-family housing that is affordable to low- and very low-income tenants,” Wilson said.

Public meetings to solicit input from community members to help further plan and design the housing community will be announced in the next few months, said Kathy Morgan, OlyCAP housing director, on Friday.

“We want it to be one of those things that the community can be proud of,” she said.

The preliminary estimate of the project’s cost is between $10 million and $15 million, Morgan said.

OlyCAP officials are eyeing the possibility of state Housing Trust Fund money along with investments from the private sector through a low-income housing tax credit and donations from local sources to pay for the project.

The process has just begun and, if all goes well, ground-breaking would be no earlier than next spring or summer.

“We have been doing due diligence for the last six months,” Morgan said.

“We have approached the city and county to make sure that what we are doing is going to work,” she added.

The proposed housing would be for families and individuals with incomes at or less than 50 percent of the area median, or $32,200 for a family of four, OlyCAP said in the press release.

Initial design includes studio, one- , two- and three-bedroom apartments.

“We plan to serve people that have, in many cases, been forced out of the traditional housing market,” Morgan said in the release.

“At Seventh and Hendricks, we will offer safe, decent housing at an affordable cost for those who are currently rent-burdened, have young children, may be experiencing homelessness, have served our country through military service, have tribal affiliation, or are living with a physical or cognitive disability.”

The proposed site is next to the county’s Department for Community Development and near the Jefferson County Public Health building on Castle Hill, as well as other services and a bus line, Morgan said.

Kate Dean, chair of the Board of County Commissioners, said officials are assessing the project’s feasibility.

“We certainly want to be in communication with neighboring residents and businesses, and to look into compatibility,” Dean said.

“There’s not a lot that the county can do to support affordable housing, so making land available is a good option,” Dean added.

”But we want to make sure it’s the right option.”

OlyCAP is working with housing consultant Ally Community Development and has hired an architect which will use local architects, Morgan said.

Officials are working with county and city representatives to determine code, zoning and permitting considerations, according to the press release.

Port Townsend City Council member and former mayor Michelle Sandoval said the city is in favor of all kinds of housing.

“This is one solution on the spectrum of solutions we are working toward,” said Sandoval, the chair of the city’s Housing Committee.

“There are so many different needs that all surround the housing issue. OlyCAP is doing their part, and we hope to make sure that 44-unit apartment building is built and funded.”

Dean said some remaining issues include granting easements on the property.

“We’re still looking into it, but we’re excited because OlyCAP brings expertise and access to funding sources to be able to complete a project of this scale,” Dean said.

In its initial plan, OlyCAP proposes an early education center that would support two classrooms and provide a permanent home for Early Childhood Education Assistance Program (ECEAP) and Head Start.

“Early education and affordable housing are among the most critical and cost-effective investments any community can make in securing its future,” Wilson said in the press release.

“Combining housing and education … that is invaluable.”

The Head Start would be available to both residents of the units and the community at large, Morgan said.

Morgan said the preliminary time line is as follows:

OlyCAP has sent the Housing Trust Fund a letter of intent to apply for funds. The final application would be made in September if feasibility studies are completed. It is unknown now how much funding will be requested but the fund caps requests at $3 million.

OlyCAP would know in December if the funding had been awarded.

Then the agency would pursue the low-income housing credit in which private investors get tax breaks for fronting funds for such projects.

It wouldn’t be until about this time next year that OlyCAP would know about that.

“If everything falls into place then we will be able to start moving some dirt,” Morgan said.

Morgan said that OlyCAP hopes to make the building of the new housing a community project.

No construction of affordable multi-family housing for lower-income households has occurred in the county since at least 2006, when OlyCAP developed the South Seven Senior Village near Port Hadlock, according to the press release.

“OlyCAP initiated this, but (the need for more housing) has been a community conversation for (at least) 11 years,” Morgan said.

“So we took this plunge.”

________

Jefferson County Managing Editor Brian McLean can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 6, or at bmclean@peninsuladailynews.com.

Executive Editor Leah Leach can be reached at 360-417-3530 or at lleach@peninsuladailynews.com.

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