Grays Harbor County commissioners on Monday postponed committing $250,000 to a homeless project complex project for South Aberdeen. If the project moves forward, it would house more than 90 people.
During the commission’s afternoon meeting, the commissioners said they wanted more time to review the request.
The project, if approved, will serve the currently homeless population, as well as those who receive services through Coastal Community Action Program (CCAP), such as rent and utility stipends, but are living in sub-standard housing.
“We think we could fill this up pretty quick. We think we can take a lot of people that are in a really tough situation and get them into a healthy situation,” CCAP CEO Craig Dublanko said.
The building would be located on East Huntley Street in South Aberdeen, about four blocks east of the Shoppes at Riverside mall. CCAP is leading the project and would manage the building and eventually own it.
Each unit would be about 350 square feet. Rent would be about $550-$600 per month.
“Microhousing is a pretty popular idea up in Seattle, where you take a smaller space and turn it into housing for people who are very low income. … We thought what if we take that concept,” Dublanko said. “You hear a lot about container units, but this is nothing like that. This is site-built, stick built with a very modern design in the whole concept.”
CCAP also has agreements worked out with Behavioral Health Resources and Evergreen Treatment Services to provide on-site mental health and substance abuse services to residents.
The project will focus on community activity, with a community room, fruit trees and gardens, and even basketball hoops and fire pits.
“We looked at the college dorm idea and thought, ‘Hey I wonder if we could make it like (that) in the way that the lifestyle is here,”’ Dublanko said.
During the morning meeting, respresentatives from the Coastal Community Action Program (CCAP) asked the commissioners to consider allocating funding to the project.
The project, valued at nearly $15 million, could see 100 percent of costs covered through tax credits. That funding would be organized through Shelter Resources, Inc. of Seattle, which has given CCAP positive feedback about the project’s probability, Dublanko said.
The only portion of the project that would not be covered are off-site costs. Those costs amount to about $500,000.
A bulk of the off-site work includes road improvements and utility upgrades. CCAP is asking the county to fund about half through the Affordable Housing fund. Therein lies the reason why the commissioners postponed a decision, with Commissioner Vickie Raines stating she would ask the county budget director and deputy prosecuting attorney to determine the legality of using those funds on the proposed project.
The City of Aberdeen is being asked to support the project with about $250,000 through in-kind donation (labor).
Because the project would be covered through 100 percent tax credit, as well as the funding and in-kind donations from the county and City of Aberdeen, it would be debt free. CCAP would manage the building from the beginning, but for the first 15 years, CCAP would own the building with tax credit investors. At the 15-year mark, ownership would be turned over to CCAP.
CCAP CFO Lucy Machowek said the Housing Committee and the Health and Human Services Advisory Board had met and are giving the project their recommendation.
Commissioner Raines noted her reluctance to commit to the project, citing communication with other organizations and competition with local efforts.
“We have a federal agency locally that has housing (the Grays Harbor County Housing Authority), and CCAP hasn’t done this type of development before, so are we missing something there?” Raines said. Raines noted that her husband is the executive director of the Grays Harbor County Housing Authority. Earlier in the year, Raines had recused herself from voting for a letter of support for the CCAP project.
“I’m just concerned that not everybody is on the same page. And that I think that for a 300 and some square foot home, $500 per month is a lot,” she said. “I’m just wondering if one (organization) should pull back and support the other one.”
While CCAP is pushing forward and trying to get commitment from local governments for the project, the project is in competition for funding with other projects with similar goals throughout the state. It’s possible the project will not be approved this year.
Dublanko said he expects to continue advocating for the project in the future if the project is not selected for funding this year.
Both Dublanko and Machowek said the project is consistent with the county’s 10-year homelessness plan.