Grays Harbor County has committed to funding a small portion of a potential housing project in South Aberdeen.
The project, spearheaded by Coastal Community Action Program (CCAP), will create more than 90 dwellings for homeless people as well as those who currently receive CCAP services but are living in sub-standard housing.
The total pricetag for the project is estimated to cost $15 million. Representatives from CCAP have said the project will be 100 percent funded through tax credits.
An additional $500,000 is needed for the off-site work of road improvement and utility installation and easements. With the decision on Feb. 13, the commissioners have committed to kicking in $250,000 from the Affordable Housing fund.
“This is not coming out of the general fund,” Commissioner Wes Cormier noted. “The state says to the county, ‘You must collect this money.’ We don’t have an option. We collect the money and this is a project that is how we’re supposed to spend that money.”
Commissioner Randy Ross added a caveat to the commitment, stating that the commissioners will only commit through 2017. If the project — which has not yet been approved for construction or tax-credit funding — does not receive approval in 2017, CCAP will need to approach the commissioners for a new commitment in the next year the project is pursued.
If the project is approved, Ross said he hoped for better communication moving forward.
“The biggest concern that I have moving forward is that (CCAP) get the information out to the public so they understand what the project is and how it will function because there seems to be a lot of localized opposition from people who live in that neighborhood,” Ross said. “And I can understand their concerns because they don’t know much about it.”
Commissioner Vickie Raines had recused herself from a vote earlier in the year that saw the commissioners giving the project a letter of support. Raines’ husband is executive director of the Housing Authority of Grays Harbor County which could potentially have projects seeking funding through the same fund.
During the Feb. 13 meeting, Raines again recused herself, however at the end of the meeting, Raines clarified that upon further conversation with the county’s legal team, there was no conflict.
“I had committed to abstaining from that vote, which I did today,” she said. “In the last little while, I did speak with the prosecutor and after she reviewed the concerns she and I both had, there is no conflict posed there. I abstained because I said I was going to do so.”
Though the commissioners have approved to commit the $250,000 if the project is approved this year, the project also relies on the City of Aberdeen approving its own commitment to provide an in-kind donation of $250,000.
Raines noted that she had heard some concerns from members of the Aberdeen city council who said they hadn’t heard anything about the proposed project.
“I don’t believe the city has approved anything at this point,” Raines said.
Ross agreed that the project had faced communication and process concerns.
“The process has to start somewhere. And I agree with Commissioner Raines that there seems to be some breakdown in the process,” Ross said.
While other committees have voiced their support of the project — according to CCAP representatives, both the Housing Coalition and the Health and Human Services Advisory Board had met and recommended the project — Raines said those recommendations came without necessary research.
“When this (project) came in so quickly, it got pushed from the requester through the Housing Coalition because they knew the Health and Human Services Advisory Board was going to vet it. And then the Health and Human Services Advisory Board was told they need it done and it’s on a time crunch, so they pushed it through to us, and all we hear is, ‘They recommended we do it.’ But there really was no detailed vetting, and that board needs to follow its own process,” Raines said. “I believe CCAP had a timeline they were on.”
While the project is being spearheaded by CCAP, it also awaits approval from Shelter Resources Inc. of Seattle.
The complex is based on “microhousing” and each unit would be about 350 square feet.
CCAP has agreements with Behavorial Health Resources and Evergreen Treatment Services to provide on-site mental health and substance abuse services to residents.