County approves $75K for affordable housing

Posted 8/21/19

The Jefferson County Commission has approved $75,000 for a proposal by Olympic Community Action Programs (OlyCAP) to build 44 units of affordable housing with an early childhood education center on county land.

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County approves $75K for affordable housing

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The Jefferson County Commission has approved $75,000 for a proposal by Olympic Community Action Programs (OlyCAP) to build 44 units of affordable housing with an early childhood education center on county land.

Former City Planner Jeff Randall, former Port Townsend Mayor Brent Shirley and current Jefferson County Sheriff (and task force member) Joe Nole all expressed support for the proposed facility at the task force’s Aug. 16 meeting, with Randall opining that it’s an overdue measure, and Shirley even declaring that it has the potential to be “the biggest thing in Port Townsend in 40 years.” OlyCAP pledged the county money would not be spent until and unless the project secures the grants needed to round out its $16 million total cost.

David Sullivan, who has seats on both the Jefferson County Commission and the 22-member affordable housing and homeless task force, explained that the commissioners felt the need to vote on their fund allocation Aug. 19, the Monday immediately following the task force’s unanimous vote on Friday, Aug. 16 to request those funds from the county.

“OlyCAP has a lot of work they need to do, to be able to apply for those grants by September,” Sullivan said. “That’s a huge lift, so they needed to know as soon as possible that it was a worthwhile push.”

Mark Blatter, treasurer and community volunteer for the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance, had also told the task force during its Aug. 16 meeting that an early commitment of local government funds would make the project more competitive in seeking state funding.

“We wouldn’t even be here unless we thought this project was already competitive,” Blatter said.

Blatter elaborated that the 44 units would range from studio to three-bedroom apartments, with the Northwind Arts Center in talks to “enliven” the building and its street frontage, and the two aboveground levels of housing and education space joined by a third (partly) underground level which would serve as a parking garage.

According to Blatter, the affordable housing facility would serve those with low incomes, special needs and the homeless, with rental assistance ensuring the tenants would only pay 30 percent of their incomes.

Port Townsend City Council member Michelle Sandoval, who sits on the task force alongside Sullivan, expressed concerns Aug. 16 about whether the county’s $75,000 would be spent even if the project as a whole fell through, but Blatter promised the funds wouldn’t be drawn from unless all the other necessary funding comes through, which he didn’t anticipate would happen sooner than March of next year.

The Aug. 16 meeting allowed the affordable housing and homeless task force to carry over discussion of the proposed mixed-use development at the corner of Seventh and Hendricks streets on Castle Hill, from its regular Aug. 14 meeting.

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