Volunteer task force to tackle affordable housing

Posted 6/5/19

Eighteen citizens have been tasked with coming up with a five-year homeless housing plan for Jefferson County to open important funding sources.

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Volunteer task force to tackle affordable housing


Eighteen citizens have been tasked with coming up with a five-year homeless housing plan for Jefferson County to open important funding sources.

The homeless and affordable housing task force, which is made up of 18 volunteers representing different sectors of the community, must create the five-year plan by Oct. 1, to be approved by the Board of County Commissioners by Dec. 1, in order for the county to use allocated funds from recording fees for projects to end homelessness and create more affordable housing in the community.

Together, the city and county has $333,693 to fund housing for the homeless and $151,516 to fund affordable housing for low-income residents.

“The homeless housing revenue stream is what is currently funding the interim OlyCAP agreement that runs through April 2020,” County Administrator Philip Morley said. The agreement with OlyCAP funds the shelter at the American Legion, the Haines Street cottages and the OlyCAP housing assistance program.

“Affordable housing (funding) is to help people who are below 50 percent of median area income,” Morley said.

An interlocal agreement between the city and county requires the task force, facilitator and joint advisory board to work to create a process for dispersing the available funds.

The joint city and county housing board, which consists of city councilmember Michelle Sandoval and county commissioner David Sullivan recommended Lizanne Coker, director of the Jefferson County Homebuilder’s Association, to facilitate the group of nearly 20 volunteers.

“I have no illusions that we’re going to be able to make changes overnight,” Coker said. “But we’ve got the ship headed in the right direction.”

Coker will facilitate the task force, along with Vicki Kirkpatrick, the director of public health.

The first meeting is set to take place on June 12 from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Board of County Commissioners chambers at the Jefferson County Courthouse. The public is welcome to attend and provide public comment.

“I’m thankful for the effort gone into selecting task force members,” said Barbara Morey, a housing advocate who was chosen to be on the task force. “There is a group of people who were not selected, but plan to attend meetings and provide comment to be a community voice during this process.”

The task force has a momentous task ahead of them. In 2017, Jefferson County commissioners voted to declare a housing emergency. At the time, ballot measure, Proposition 1, asking voters to approve an additional property tax of 12 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation for seven years to raise funds dedicated to low-income housing. The proposition did not pass.

Since then, affordable housing has become an increasing concern for the community. During a snowstorm in February, a homeless woman died of hypothermia. And just last week, six tenants were evicted from Admiralty Apartments on Taylor Street, because of the building’s failing structure.

“It’s like one step forward two steps back,” Kirkpatrick said.

Having such a large task force might be challenging, but the diversity in ideas will be a plus, Coker said. She will be facilitating the task force meetings, which will take place from 2 to 4 p.m. on the second and fourth Wednesday of each month at the Board of County Commissioners chambers.


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