Grant sought to help housing

Aid would target down payments

A housing agency that serves Clallam and Jefferson counties is applying for a state grant of up to $240,000 for down-payment assistance to help low- to moderate-income households purchase homes.

The Peninsula Housing Authority board of commissioners unanimously approved the application at their meeting last week.

Executive Director Sarah Martinez said Friday the special purpose government agency will apply by early September for the Housing Trust Fund grant through the state Department of Commerce.

“It helps us serve a lower-income population,” Martinez said.

The agency builds seven to 10 self-help homes at a time, she said.

“We’ve built over 100 homes in Clallam County,” she said, adding the PHA has participated in the mutual self-help housing program since 2006.

Martinez said it was hard to say how may clients could draw from the grant if it’s approved because housing down payments can vary so widely.

She said a buyer might want to buy a $170,000 home and qualify for a $163,000 loan.

“If we have a participant in our self-help program who does not quite qualify for the amount of the loan, then we would be able to add some funds as down-payment assistance to fill the gap,” Martinez said.

“The state helps us widen our breadth of who we serve.”

To qualify, a two- to four-person household could not earn more than $56,500 annually, Martinez said.

A five-person household could not earn more than $74,600.

“It’s really serving kind of a moderate-income group, service industry-related jobs here locally and things of that nature,” Martinez said.

In other action at its meeting Wednesday, the housing board tabled establishment of a remote-work policy that commissioners will reconsider at their next meeting on Sept. 15.

The agency’s 34 employees have not worked remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic, Martinez said.

“We haven’t had the infrastructure to do so,” she said.

“It was a wake-up call to get that infrastructure put into place. We are preparing for the next emergency situation where we might have to work remotely.”

Most employees who work at the PHA’s main office have socially distanced and “been great about wearing masks in shared spaces,” Martinez said.

The agency is located on South Francis Street in Port Angeles.

Clallam County employees have, as needed, staffed the Port Townsend office, provided by Olympic Community Action Programs (OlyCAP), she said.

“We’ve still been able to service Jefferson County clients virtually through phone, email and Zoom, lots of Zoom,” Martinez said.

County commissioners in Clallam and Jefferson counties choose the housing authority board members, five who represent Clallam and three who represent Jefferson.

Board members are Martinez, the board secretary; chair Pat Teal, and commissioners Colleen Robinson, Tim Fellin, Peggy Webster, Cheri Tinker, Norma Turner and Paul Cunningham, according to the agency’s website at peninsulapha.org.

The vice chair commissioner position is unfilled.

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].

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