Clallam nears final approval of housing authority grant

PORT ANGELES — Clallam County officials next week are expected to cut a $901,200 check to the Peninsula Housing Authority to fund infrastructure for an expanded Mount Angeles View housing complex.

The three commissioners approved the Opportunity Fund grant in April on the condition that the city of Port Angeles add the Mount Angeles View expansion project to its comprehensive plan.

The City Council updated the plan June 20.

“The City will support the implementation of the Mount Angeles View Project including a new Boys and Girls Club, recognizing that the overall project results in affordable housing and child care for the local workforce,” the amended plan reads.

County commissioners will consider on Tuesday, July 11 a memorandum of understanding with the Peninsula Housing Authority for the use of the funds.

County Administrator Jim Jones said the housing authority will loan the money to a consortium of owners of the new property.

“This money is going to go into that collective pot as their skin in the game, I guess,” Jones said in a board work session.

In two public hearings on the budget authority for the grant, Peninsula Housing Authority officials stressed that the grant would be used exclusively for infrastructure for the $18.5 million Mount Angeles View Phase 1 redevelopment project.

Housing Authority Executive Director Kay Kassinger did not return phone calls seeking clarification Monday afternoon.

In an April interview, Kassinger said the grant would be used for site preparation, grading, stormwater remediation, utilities serving, curb and gutter, sidewalks, water, sewer, power and communications infrastructure.

Phase 1 of the Mount Angeles View project will replace 33 affordable housing units with 63 new units at the 18-acre complex in south Port Angeles.

Civil deputy prosecuting attorneys David Alvarez and Brian Wendt advised that the memorandum of understanding protects the county from liability, Jones said.

“It’s a gray area,” Jones said. “It doesn’t say you can’t use [the grant] for a loan. It says it has to be used for the project.

“Well, the people that they’re loaning it to, the consortium of entities who’s borrowing the money, is the one who is going to build the project,” Jones added.

“So it probably is OK. But our out is if it ever isn’t, it’s on them to straighten it out.”

Jones said he did not know the identity of the “consortium of entities.”

Last month, Kassinger said the housing authority planned to sign an agreement with the Chicago-based nonprofit National Equity Fund Inc., the major financer for the project.

The Peninsula Housing Authority manages the Section 8 housing assistance program in Clallam and Jefferson counties.

Clallam County Commissioner Bill Peach said he supported the Mount Angeles View project but had a concern about transparency.

“The only concern I have is a member of the public saying: ‘Excuse me, you’re loaning money to an entity you haven’t even described?’” Peach said.

“To me, it’s worth the transparency on this transaction.”

Commissioner Mark Ozias agreed.

“My other concern would be what assurance would we have that the $901,000 would be used for the specific purpose that it was allocated for?” Ozias said.

“There were specific underground infrastructure pieces of the project that were specifically attached to the application.

“I understand the arrangement, but it is a little disconcerting to feel like it’s just going into a big pool,” Ozias added.

“They applied for specific elements, and this path really potentially muddies those waters pretty considerably.”

Despite their concerns, Peach and Ozias did not object to the memorandum of understanding itself.

“It’s less of a concern of mine,” Commissioner Randy Johnson said.

“If I had a major investor who’s private and doesn’t want to disclose why, that runs people away.

“But the agreement says specifically that these funds will be utilized for X,” Johnson added.

“I think that’s what they’re going to be used for, or else we’ve got another problem.”

________

Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at rollikainen@peninsuladailynews.com.

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