The Franz Anderson permanent supportive housing project overcame the final hurdle with Lacey's approval of entering an interlocal agreement (ILA) with Olympia, Tumwater, and Thurston County.
For Lacey, the approval of the ILA means a $3 million contribution to the project. However, council members Lenny Greenstein and Ed Kunkel voiced concerns about disproportionate financial commitment compared to other jurisdictions for a project outside city limits.
Lacey Planning Manager Ryan Andrews briefed the councilmembers about the Franz Anderson project that will build 71 permanent supportive housing units on the site.
The agreement includes provisions for residents living in the 50 temporary tiny shelters to transfer to permanent housing units once completed. It also allows residents of Maple Court in Lacey to move into permanent supportive housing, as Maple Court will eventually be converted from an emergency shelter to permanent housing itself.
To support the initiative, regional partners are transferring portions of the funds they received through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) to the project.
Lacey's contribution would come from 2023 general funds, as the city had already dedicated its ARPA funds to support the construction of the Lacey Police Station.
"I am curious as to why we are putting up so much more than Olympia or Tumwater… I don't understand why we are carrying the lion's share of the cost?" Greenstein inquired as he noted that Olympia has a total contribution of $825,000, Tumwater $275,000, and the county is putting up over $4 million.
Under the agreement, Olympia will provide the Franz Anderson Road property and oversee the administrative management of the funds and the project that would construct 71 studio and one-bedroom units, with 30 residential units to be accessible to disabled persons.
Mayor Andy Ryder discouraged the council from focusing on jurisdictional spending comparisons as he emphasized that they need to work collaboratively as a region to solve the homeless issue.
"Yes, this project is in Olympia because the land there is ready to go. If the next project is in Lacey, and we have land and a project to go, I expect the region to come together and help us fund that project through the Regional Housing Council. We're setting the precedent right now that we care as a collective body and that we're going to do something to solve this issue. By pointing fingers on who spent what here and there is not how we're going to solve this problem," Ryder said.
Kunkel raised strong concerns about the existing temporary shelter site on Franz Anderson Road. He said the tiny home village has been "an unmitigated disaster." He cited issues like transients harassing local businesses and residents being unable to let their children play outside due to drug use and illicit behavior in the area.
Kunkel referred to the project's first phase, which included 50 temporary tiny shelters, which have already been installed and are currently occupied on the Franz Anderson Road site.
"Franz Anderson is a disaster. Spending more money on this is enabling the problem… And I'll be damned if I'm going to support $1 from Lacey to go to that plan," Kunkel said.
Councilmember Michael Steadman expressed concern about ensuring adequate access for Lacey residents to the new permanent supportive housing units developed through this project.
He asked how much Lacey would have access, saying they should have "at least a baseline" given how much the city contributes financially.
Andrews clarified that the housing would have regional access through the coordinated entry system and prioritize current shelter residents and future residents of Maple Court in Lacey.
Deputy Mayor Malcolm Miller sees the initiative as a "win" that would help make progress on addressing the lack of housing. "That puts us at 70 plus the 50. That is 120 plus the Maple Court with 120. That's 240 units that we did not have a year ago."
He said the city promised the public that they would fix the homelessness issue, and working collaboratively with the region is another measure they have put into place to continue combatting the problem.
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