Project-Type: Public/Private Financed
Brad Collins, Deputy Mayor, City of Port Angeles, (360) 417-4751, email@example.com
Kathy Wahto, Executive Director, Serenity House of Clallam County, (360) 452-7954, firstname.lastname@example.org
The City of Port Angeles is the largest community in the large and predominantly rural Clallum County, located in the northwest corner of Washington State. The veteran community of Port Angeles accounts for 14% of the county's population, compared with the state average of 9%, and it is expected to grow due to its proximity to Joint Base Lewis McChord (JBLM).
To assist homeless veterans, Serenity House, a non-profit housing developer, partnered with the local Habitat for Humanity to build a 28-unit supportive housing development called Maloney Heights. The Habitat affiliate owned a parcel of land next to property owned by Serenity House that was zoned for medium-density residential use. In order to maximize the property's use, the parcel needed to be sub-divided, and infrastructure such as access roads and sewer lines was needed. Serenity House and Habitat partnered with the local housing authority and the City of Port Angeles to submit an application to the state for Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) money. The funding was approved, allowing the original land to be sub-divided into 15 lots. Habitat used 14 lots for single-family homeownership projects, and the other lot was donated to Serenity House to be used for Maloney Heights. Additional money for the development of Maloney Heights came from the state's Housing Trust Fund, grants from foundations and money raised by Serenity House.
Having secured revenue for the project's capital costs, Serenity House used a variety of sources to meet their operating costs. Thanks to the support of the city, the flexibility of the local housing authority and collaboration with county and state officials, Serenity House avoided over-reliance on any single revenue stream. In addition to supporting the CDBG application, the city's backing encouraged the state to provide McKinney-Vento Supportive Housing Program dollars and Tenant-based Rental Assistance. Additionally, city support was helpful for obtaining money from the Supportive Services for Veteran Families program for the development.
Along with the city's support, the local housing authority is providing on-going support to Maloney Heights with project-based Section 8 vouchers and anticipates using HUD-VASH vouchers in the future. To provide money for the project's staffing needs, Clallum County directed money from its Veterans Relief Fund (VRF). The VRF is a state-mandated and county-managed source of revenue from property tax receipts used to assist low-income veterans and their families.
To further support the development, the city waived the requirement that all new residential units have two parking spaces. The city agreed to allow the project to have only 12 parking spaces rather than the 56 that are usually required. Finally, during development, Serenity House fitted the Maloney Heights structure with the ability to have solar panels installed. Recognizing the potential to support this design feature, the city connected Serenity House with another non-profit organization interested in promoting sustainable building practices. The upfront costs of the solar panels were covered by a state grant, allowing the accrued cost savings to be used as an on-going source of operating revenue. This connection by the city made Maloney Heights the first development serving homeless in Washington State to use residential solar panels.
Despite the city's support for Maloney Heights, the project did encounter challenges. As Serenity House and Habitat for Humanity applied for permits, the Department of Public Works (DPW) expressed concern about the development's impact on existing roads. In an effort to protect the city from incurring costs associated with the development of additional roads, the department required the non-profits to pay for the improvements. The additional $130,000 associated with these improvements was contested as being unnecessary by the non-profits, who cited other local developments. To settle the issue, DPW required a traffic study be completed.
Particularly frustrating to the non-profit leaders was DPW's inability to cite specific provisions in the city's code requiring the development of the additional roads. While DPW was attempting to protect the city from incurring possible future costs associated with additional roads after the project was completed, collaborative efforts to find a solution were not pursued as directly as some stakeholders anticipated. While the city's elected officials publically supported the project and backed the funding of the development to multiple sources, the DPW officials who share responsibility for protecting the city's financial interests did not always share their vision for success.
When the traffic study found no need for additional roads, the permits were issued, and work moved forward. However, in retrospect, several stakeholders involved in the development's process noted the importance of ensuring that all city officials, elected leaders and department managers have a clear understanding of a city's commitment to supporting housing projects for veterans.
Through collaboration at all levels of government and partnership with a local non-profit and private funders, nine veterans who used to be chronically homeless now have a safe, affordable and accessible place to call home. To learn more about what you and your community can do to support homeless veterans and all veterans with disabilities, contact Elisha Harig-Blaine at email@example.com.