Habitat gets $2M for state CHIP grant

Project would build 50 affordable units

SEQUIM — Habitat for Humanity of Clallam County is $2 million closer to realizing its goal to construct a 50-unit affordable housing four-plex and duplex project in Sequim.

The state Department of Commerce announced Wednesday it awarded the City of Sequim a Connecting Housing to Infrastructure Program (CHIP) grant for Habitat’s development project on the corner of South Sequim Avenue and Brownfield Road.

The grant, a joint application from the City of Sequim and Habitat for Humanity of Clallam County, will help fund utility infrastructure costs for the project.

Phase 1, which lays the groundwork for the project’s infrastructure, will cost about $5 million, said Colleen Robinson, the chief executive officer for Habitat for Humanity of Clallam County.

Robinson said Habitat, which applied for $2 million, was told there were twice as much in funding requests as funds available for the grant.

“We did not expect [the full funding requested]; we are thrilled,” she said.

Robinson said the proposal likely got the full request because of strong community support, that the project is “shovel ready” for Phase 1, and that the effort has substantial other funding, including a $1 million donation in spring 2022 from MacKenzie Scott, a billionaire author philanthropist, and more recently $500,000 in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding from Clallam County.

“Having funding in place, site control and already having our plan with our engineer, all of that help to be prepared for this,” Robinson said.

Habitat is also hoping for funding in the federal budget that U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, requested from the House Appropriations Committee for fiscal year 2024.

“I don’t know if that [federal funding request] will make it into the budget,” Robinson said, “so we’re still a little short, but it’s enough to get started.”

The CHIP grant program was created in 2021, city officials noted. The grant program’s goal is to build more housing units more quickly by covering the upfront costs of infrastructure connecting housing to municipal systems for water, sewer and stormwater utilities.

Habitat is working on permitting with the City of Port Angeles on a four-plex project for veterans and hopes to break ground in March while it works on Phase 1 in Sequim.

“In Colleen’s world, we’ll be building homes in 2025,” Robinson said.

The Department of Commerce’s Sequim-specific funding was part of a 43-project, $47 million infrastructure investment that looks to pave the way for more than 3,000 new affordable housing units, a step toward meeting an estimated need for 1.1 million new housing units in the next 20 years.

The CHIP grants pay for the below-ground infrastructure, such as water and sewer pipes, and to reimburse system infrastructure charges paid by housing developers.

“Addressing the lack of affordable housing in communities all across Washington is crucial to our economy,” Department of Commerce director Mike Fong said in a press release. “CHIP grants provide vital infrastructure to jump-start construction of units that will serve households most in need.”

Many of the awarded projects will also provide supportive housing for individuals and families experiencing, or at risk of, homelessness.

In this latest application round, Commerce received 74 applications for a total of $79 million. With $55.5 million appropriated this biennium, state officials said demand significantly exceeded available resources.

Since 2021, and including the Jan. 31 awards, Commerce has invested more than $88 million in CHIP funding, supporting the creation of more than 7,800 affordable housing units.

See the full list of projects here.

Commerce expects a second round of funding will open for grant applications this fall, with $12.7 million available.

CHIP prioritizes applications based on select criteria including affordability, project readiness and consistency with growth management principles.

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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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