PORT TOWNSEND — In the state’s largest contribution of the current funding cycle, the state Department of Commerce has awarded $11,303,188 to the Olympic Community Action Programs’ Seventh and Hendricks affordable housing project.
Construction will start this year on the project, estimated at a total development cost of $15,217,345, OlyCAP executive director Cherish Cronmiller said, adding she hopes to apply for permits by February.
The single building, at 50,950 square feet, will include apartments of various sizes plus a childcare center for low- and middle-income residents, she said.
“It will be open to everybody,” as in all income-qualified families in the surrounding community.
The new complex also will provide support to residents who are dealing with homelessness, health issues, developmental disabilities and domestic violence — and it will be a net-zero energy-efficient building, she said.
All of those factors helped OlyCAP land the funding.
Port Townsend is one of 18 cities to receive Department of Commerce grants and loans to build affordable housing.
Of the $97 million awarded across the state, $85.3 million comes from Washington’s Housing Trust Fund, while $11.7 million was provided through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) HOME and National Housing Trust Fund programs.
“There is very little local money in the [Seventh and Hendricks] project,” Cronmiller said, noting that about 1 percent comes from local public and private sources, including Jefferson County, the city of Port Townsend and the Port Townsend Noon Rotary and Kiwanis clubs.
She’s meeting with developers this week and looking for ways to trim expenses — and raise more money at home.
“There are some things we can tweak,” she said, to lower the cost of constructing the 43-unit building.
Projects such as this generate local jobs and tax revenue, Cronmiller added, so “we may be asking for additional support from the Port Townsend community … We may do a capital campaign” or work with a supporter on naming rights, “since ‘Seventh and Hendricks’ doesn’t roll off the tongue,” she said.
Plans for the development include a mix of six studio apartments, 18 one-bedroom units, 15 two-bedroom apartments and four three-bedroom units for people with incomes below 50 percent of Jefferson County’s median income. In 2018, the county’s median household income was reported to be $54,471.
There’s now a parking lot where the project will be situated; Cronmiller said more parking will be constructed underneath the building.
“Hallelujah … We’re thrilled about that,” Port Townsend Mayor Michelle Sandoval said of OlyCAP’s award during the City Council meeting Monday night.
Sandoval noted the city and county, through an interlocal agreement, provided $75,000 in support to the Seventh and Hendricks project.
In mid-February 2020, the development lost out on tax credits, putting construction on hold. OlyCAP went to a waiting list, behind seven other projects around Washington, for the state’s low-income housing tax credits program.
Cronmiller, who had been executive director only a couple of weeks at the time, said then that she wasn’t about to give up her search for funding. She submitted her application for the state Department of Commerce grant in September.
“We desperately need a project here in Jefferson County. But it’s very hard to compete,” she said this week, adding that, while many people talk at length about the affordable housing crisis, she hopes to see more financial support behind their words.
The state award is so large, she believes, because “they recognize the definite need for it in our community. When was the last time affordable housing was constructed in this area?”
The state matches local dollars, she added, which is why they are so important.
“With a project like this,” she said, “you are literally having to cobble together the pieces.”
Jefferson County senior reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or [email protected]