U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, left, talks with Clallam County commissioners Mark Ozias and Randy Johnson at a groundbreaking of the Brownfield Road Project in Sequim. (Michael Dashiell/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, left, talks with Clallam County commissioners Mark Ozias and Randy Johnson at a groundbreaking of the Brownfield Road Project in Sequim. (Michael Dashiell/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

Ground broken for Habitat project

Rep. Derek Kilmer tells of federal assistance

SEQUIM — Local and regional leaders joined with Habitat for Humanity of Clallam County volunteers Wednesday afternoon to celebrate the groundbreaking of the Brownfield Road Project, one that looks to bring as many as 53 Habitat-built homes to the southeast corner of East Brownfield and South Sequim Avenue.

The long-proposed effort got a boost recently from U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, who was on hand for the ceremonial celebration. Kilmer has requested funding for the project to the House Appropriations Committee for the fiscal year 2024.

The project, Kilmer’s representatives note, will “(bolster) the local economy by creating jobs during the construction phase and enabling key community workers to live within the area they serve.”

Kilmer, who said he spent some of his summers during college building Habitat homes, put it bluntly on Wednesday afternoon: “We need a lot of homes people can afford.”

The former Port Angeles native said there’s a nationwide shortage of between 10 million and 12 million homes.

“It takes a village to build a village,” Kilmer said. “This is good news.”

Because Congress has reinstated individual project spending — formerly called “earmarks,” they are now called Community Project Funding — he and staff looked over dozens of projects he’d like to see funded in the next House budget.

“This is one of the highest, if not the highest scoring projects we’d seen,” Kilmer said. “That makes it easy to champion the cause in Washington, D.C.”

Kilmer later said that project advocates can expect an answer on actual funding by the end of the year.

“Congratulations to the community for getting this done,” Kilmer told the crowd. “I’m honored to be part of it.”

Colleen Robinson, CEO of Habitat for Humanity of Clallam County, said a project like this would not have happened if not for efforts by leaders and staff at city, county, federal, private industry and community levels, along with the nonprofit.

An example, she noted, was when she initially approached for assistance with one Habitat home, the Vancouver, B.C.-based lumber company wound up donating the framing lumber for eight homes.

The first major donation, Robinson noted, was a $50,000 gift from the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe to help buy property, and soon after Habitat received a $100,000 donation from the First Fed Foundation.

“When I think of the needs in this community, we need more workforce,” said Matt Deines, CEO of First Fed Bank.

“(But) in order for those people to do those jobs and to be here, they need a place to live.

“I love the phrase, ‘If it’s to be, it’s up to me.’ In this case, it’s really up to us to help find ways to generate more housing across the board.”

In October 2022, the Sequim City Council unanimously voted to allow for multi-family zoning within Sequim city limits, allowing for increased density, which “significantly increases” the number of homes that can be built on the property, Habitat officials said.

Earlier this year, the project got a letter of support from the Sequim School District, whose Career and Technical Education department is seeking a revitalization of its building trades programming.

Habitat officials said previously that the organization had raised $1.5 million of an estimated $3.2 million cost of development and infrastructure of the Brownfield Road project. (The MacKenzie Scott Foundation supplied $1 million, while Habitat leveraged its mortgage portfolio to secure an additional $500,000, organization officials said.)

“It’s so easy in the world today to look to someone for the answer, the big tough crisis like the housing crisis,” Clallam County Commissioner Mark Ozias said at Wednesday’s groundbreaking.

“None of this happens unless we recognize that we share common ground and that it doesn’t depend on just one of us. It depends on all of us to get something done.”

________

Michael Dashiell is the editor of the Sequim Gazette of the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which also is composed of other Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News and Forks Forum. Reach him at editor@sequimgazette.com.

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