Affordable housing consultant Julie Brunner gives City Council an Housing Study update

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by Richard Uhlhorn

Affordable housing was on the collective minds of the Lake Chelan Valley this past week. On Tuesday evening, September 25, the Chelan City Council heard an update from Housing Consultant Julie Brunner. This meeting was followed on Wednesday evening with a well attended Senior Living Initiative Summit at the Chelan Senior Center followed by a standing room only, crowded City of Chelan Town Hall meeting at the Chelan Senior Center on Thursday night.

At the Tuesday, September 25 City Council meeting, consultant Julie Brunner gave a Housing Study Update to the council on the Chelan Valley Housing Trust and the current housing needs assessment.

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Affordable Housing Consultant Julie Brunner spent several days in Chelan last week and gave a full report on her Housing Study within the Lake Chelan Valley to City Council at its September 25 meeting.

Chelan Valley Housing Trust was originally started as the Affordable Housing Initiative in Chelan by Mayor Mike Cooney, Councilman Tim Hollingsworth, and Planning Commissioner Rachael Goldie in an effort to address the housing crisis for moderate to low income residents of the Chelan Valley.

Currently, the Trust is seeking  501(c) 3 status as a non-profit organization. Brunner said that the group held a meeting on Monday evening with 11 individuals who are interested in participating as professional board members and that sort of thing.

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They also had conversations about land donations and trying to figure out where housing might go. They are also discussion fundraising and planning.

“One of the things special about here and in the Methow is that we in the affordable housing industry in Washington State is that all the traditional sources of money we’ve gone to the make affordable housing happen are no longer available,” said Brunner. “They have been shrinking and shrinking and shrinking and the completion (for that money) has been getting worse and worse and worse.”

Because of the shrinking funding sources, affordable housing organizations are beginning to look at private money and local municipal support for funding sources. “We can’t rely on State and Federal folks we used to, so we are trying to take matters into our own hands,” said Brunner.

Brunner shared numbers from the 2016 census (CCD). These numbers indicate that Chelan has 6,631 residents and Manson has 2,948 residents. There are 2,625 households in Chelan and 1,303 in Manson with 4,514 housing units in Chelan and 2,452 in Manson.

Of the 9,579 people residing in the Valley, 2,734 are owner occupied and 1,194 are renter occupied. 2,365 are seasonally occupied. “Thirty four percent is seasonally vacant here (Chelan valley) compared to 16 percent in the county and three percent in the State.

One of the biggest jumps in residency between 2000 and 2016 according to Brunner’s statistics is from the age of 45 to 65 with a jump from 22 percent to 34 percent and 65 and older from 12 percent to 20 percent. The biggest drop was the younger generation from 0-17 and 18-44.

Wages weigh into the housing crisis in the Chelan Valley. Fully one-quarter of the population make under $25,000 per year followed by 24 percent making between $25,000 and $50,000 per year. Seventeen percent are in the higher bracket of $50,000 to $75,000 and 14 percent are making $75,000 to 100,000 a year.

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Poverty by age groups was also shared with the Council. The percentage of people in the Chelan Valley under the poverty level is an astounding 12.3 percent with 14.8 percent 65 years or older against only eight percent state wide.

What was interesting was the amount of income an individual or family must bring in to rent in Chelan (median rental prices). The standard for rentals is one-third of one’s annual or monthly earnings. Therefore, according to Brunner’s study, a person or family would need to make $18 per hour or $38,000 a year to rent a one bedroom apartment. A two bedroom apartment runs about $1,250 per month and a three bedroom, $1,500 a month which means a family would have to make $24 or $29 per hour to meet the 1/3rd of their income criteria. Unfortunately pay norms in Chelan are below that minimum of $18 per hour.

According to Brunner’s study, Chelan Service workers make on average $14 per hour or $29,120 per year, which means they can afford to rent at $728 per month or would qualify for a $103,000 conventional mortgage or $180,000 USDA mortgage.

Small business owners are reporting $35,000 earnings per year on average which means they would qualify for a $134,000 conventional mortgage or $234,000 USDA mortgage, if they could even qualify for that. Nurses are on average a little higher at $17 per hour, and mid management on average are pulling down $20 per hour or $41,600 per year. They couldn’t qualify for a USDA loan, but can afford $1,144 per month rent or could qualify for a $166,500 conventional mortgage. Chelan’s teachers on average make $42,290 per year.

“You can see that half of your population is under $50,000 per year. That’s a pretty good guide of who you need to focus on,” said Brunner.

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At the Chelan Valley Housing Trust (Community Land Trust – CTL) meeting on Monday, an employer said, “I want my employees to live in Chelan because they would be more productive and happier at work.” Land Trusts are community based with local membership and a professional board structure.

CTL’s are a form of subsidized home ownership. Each housing unit, whether a single family home or a condominium, have a lower initial price and a resale restriction. In other words, a home owner in a land trust home can sell, but at a lower price again and again. The individual owns the house and leasehold interest. The CTL owns the land.

The Lookout has offered to donate land for the CVHT. The cost to build on this land would be $150 per square foot plus $35,000 for site preparation and utilities. This would build a 900 square foot home for approximately $170,000, and a 110 sq. ft. house would cost approximately $200,000.

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Brunner has been involved in the Lopez Community Land Trust, the San Juan CHT, and Opal CLT and a number of other Land Trusts that have been highly successful on the west side of the mountains

Councilman Tim Hollingsworth stated that the City has to be on board with lower costs. City Administrator Mike Jackson stated that there was a work session next week that will include rate studies.

Mayor Cooney stated that the City does not want to own it. “We want to be a part of the Land Trust and take a role of leadership.” The Chelan Valley Land Trust will be looking for land donations and funding from a variety of sources. “We are not going to build houses,” said Cooney. “I think people are waiting for us to start it.”

Hollingsworth said there was a lot of discussion at the Monday evening meeting that included realtors and bankers. “It’s hard to get an answer that’s going to make a difference.” Cooney replied that the City needs to let developers know the City is working on a rate study.

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Councilman Tim Hollingsworth along with Rachel Goldie and Mayor Mike Cooney have started the Chelan Valley Land Trust and are working hard at bringing some affordable housing to the community.

While the City has no influence over the private sector, Brunner said that it is not uncommon for Cities to be involved. She said she is working with Houston who is putting $2 Million towards building affordable housing. “You have good hearted developers who want to help but they don’t want to own it,” said Brunner. This is where the Land Trust comes in. Hollingsworth said that a part of the reason to forma Land Trust is to move government and include the broader community.

“The City has been very involved in fostering the effort, but ultimately the City doesn’t have the infrastructure or the mandate that a separate organization can do. It’s a part of the solution,” said Hollingsworth who added that the City’s rate structure is also a critical element to the success of building affordable housing.

Mike Jackson said he hopes to have the rates adopted before the 2019 budget.

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City Administrator Mike Jackson told the Council that GFC Rates would be discussed at a special workshop on October 3 and hopes that a rate schedule can be adopted before the 2019 budget is finalized.

There is a special workshop session at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, October 3, in Council Chambers for upcoming City Council topics including, but not limited to, GFC Charges, Proposed 2019 Legislative Agenda and Draft Financial Policies.

The Affordable Housing mandate that started with the City and has moved to a Chelan Valley Land Trust effort is moving forward, but affordable housing in the Lake Chelan Valley is still at a crisis stage.

AN AFFORDABLE HOUSING OPTIONS IN CHELAN

Rental

$1,550

Chelan, WA

Chelan Long Term Rental

  • 3 Bedroom, 2.5 Bath Townhome
    • 1768 sq. ft., 2-story
    • Washer/dryer in-unit
    • Non-smoking
    • No pets
    • Available November 1
    • $1,550/mo.

Fantastic location next to Chelan High School, walking distance to downtown and around the corner from the Riverwalk trail. Well maintained and comfortable home in a quiet community in Chelan.

More information upon request. Contact: Debbie Turner,
Coldwell Banker Lake Chelan Properties Chelan,
509-682-7777

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Unless you are making in the neighborhood of $40,000 a year, $1,500 per month for rent is probably beyond your reach, however, the listing above for a three-bedroom condominium at $1,550 is certainly within the reach of two or three responsible people looking for a long term lease.

The owner of this Condominium says that she has leased to more than one tenant before and that it has worked out well. “I have no problem leasing to more than one person,” she said. “As long as each one signs the lease, I’m fine with that.”

This writer knows of another three bedroom home that will be coming up for rent in the near future and I will report that one also when it is available.

Shared housing can be very affordable. There should also be short term rentals coming available now that the tourist season is over and many homeowners are escaping south for the winter.

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