Thurston County’s Board of County Commissioners approved contracts with six nonprofit organizations to contribute to seven affordable housing projects. The county’s combined contributions total $5,525,401.
Senior Program Manager Thomas Webster presented details of the programs yesterday, September 12, reiterating the items discussed during the Regional Housing Council’s August 23 meeting.
“Back in June, you approved us to issue a Request for Proposal (RFP) for capital affordable housing projects. This RFP was issued on June 9, and applications were due on July 20. These funds come from a variety of sources,” reported Webster.
The sources Webster pertained to include the combined county and Olympia Home Fund of $3,075,000; sales tax from the 1406 fund for $900,000; the Home Investment Partnerships-American Rescue Plan Act funding for $1,450,401; and local document recording fees fund from HB 2060 for $100,000.
“We received a total of 17 applications. We determined that two of those were not eligible so 15 applications were reviewed by the Thurston Affordable Housing Advisory Board to the Regional Housing Council,” Webster said. “The Board reviewed and scored the applications and made recommendations to the regional Housing Council. The RHC reviewed those recommendations and unanimously voted to move those forward for your consideration.”
The approval of these funds is foreseen to contribute to the construction of 137 new units of affordable housing in the community.
“We pumped millions and millions of dollars into this homeless situation that we have in our community, and I do believe that we have enough money we could do an adequate job of helping our own folks that have fallen on hard times for whatever reasons,” Commissioner Gary Edwards said.
Edwards asked Webster whether applicants to the affordable housing programs are limited to long-term Thurston County residents.
“There is no existing policy that requires folks to be residents of Thurston County for a certain period of time,” Webster replied. “We really rely on each organization to establish their policies for how they prioritize who receives ultimately the housing for these programs. So we look to these agencies to implement their programs based on the policy that they have established.”
“I believe we're never going to get the problem solved because we're going to have individuals that come here from elsewhere. I want to help but these are tax dollars and I want to make sure that we prioritize so until we can get to that point,” Edwards said. “I've mentioned to Tom [Webster] he's doing good work and I commend him for it but we're just not there yet.”
The motion was approved after Commissioners Carolina Mejia and Tye Menser voted in favor, and Commissioner Edwards voted against.
Edwards thanked Webster and his staff for their hard work, expressing his concern about what he called an influx of people from outside Thurston County who come into the county, leaving less chance for locals to be chosen for the programs.
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