OlyCAP to build up to 44 units of affordable housing

Posted 5/8/19

Olympic Community Action Programs is preparing to build up to 44 units of affordable housing and an early childhood education center at the corner of Hendricks and 7th Street in Port Townsend.

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OlyCAP to build up to 44 units of affordable housing

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Olympic Community Action Programs is preparing to build up to 44 units of affordable housing and an early childhood education center at the corner of Hendricks and 7th Street in Port Townsend.

The property, which is directly next to the county Department of Community Development and QFC, is currently owned by Jefferson County. The county has an interlocal agreement with Jefferson Healthcare to use the property for parking.

The Board of County Commissioners unanimously approved a letter of intent at their business meeting on May 6 to sell or lease the piece of county property to OlyCAP for the housing project.

“Housing is in short supply,” said county administrator Philip Morley at the meeting. “It’s one of our community’s most pressing needs.”

The project will focus on very-low and low-income families and individuals with incomes at or less than 50% of the area median, or $32,200 annually for a family of four, said Kathy Morgan, OlyCAP’s housing director. It will be affordable housing for a minimum of 40 years, according to the letter of intent approved by commissioners.

Initial designs include studio, one, two and three bedroom apartments, in a multi-story building.

“We plan to serve people that have, in many cases, been forced out of the traditional housing market,” Morgan said. “At 7th and Hendricks we will offer safe, decent housing at an affordable cost for those who are currently rent burdened, have young children, may be experiencing homelessness, have served our country through military service, have tribal affiliation, or are living with a physical or cognitive disability.”

There has been no construction of affordable multi-family housing for lower income households in Jefferson County since at least 2006, when OlyCAP developed the South Seven Senior Village near Port Hadlock, according to a press release from OlyCAP.

County officials are currently in conversation with OlyCAP members to decide whether to enter into a long-term lease or sell the property for the affordable housing project.

“There are only so many pieces of property that are available for affordable housing,” said County Commissioner David Sullivan.

The location is ideal for affordable housing because it is near the bus stop and near services such as the hospital and grocery stores, Morgan said.

Altogether, the project will take up to three years and will likely cost $10 to $15 million total.

The majority of the funding for the project is coming from Low Income Housing Tax Credit which is a group of investors, the Housing Trust Fund, and community partnerships, Morgan said.

“We need 10% community buy-in, which is the community’s financial contribution,” Morgan said. “We’re not doing this as just a single agency. We want to have the involvement of the community as a partner.”

Part of that partnership comes from the county, as the letter of intent stated that at closing, OlyCAP will pay 10 percent or less of the fair market value for the property as the purchase price.

OlyCAP has hired Third Place Design Cooperative, out of Seattle, and local architect Richard Berg from Terrapin Architecture for the development and design of the building.

“The building has to be sustainable for 50 to 80 years,” Morgan said. “That means it needs to be built green.”

In the coming months, Third Place Design and OlyCAP will host a series of public meetings to discuss design with community members and receive input, she said.

Schematic design will take place in July, financing applications will take place from September to January of 2020 and OlyCAP hopes to begin construction by September of 2020, with the project slated to finish two years later.

“The problem in this community is overwhelming,” said Dale Wilson, OlyCAP’s executive director. This year, OlyCAP’s Point-In-Time count showed 90 more homeless individuals than the year before.

Wilson added that many previous affordable housing projects funded by the Low Income Housing Tax Credit in Jefferson County are going to expire soon, and no longer be required to be affordable.

“If something doesn’t happen we’re actually going to see some significant losses of what has traditionally been affordable housing in the community,” he said. “That would be horrible. And it is coming. Once they are paid off, and reach their 20 years, then all of a sudden they’re up for grabs. Those properties can be converted to other uses really fast.”

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