Chelan Valley Housing Trust asks City to release $30,000 for affordable housing

by Richard Uhlhorn

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Mike Cooney, executive director of Chelan Valley Housing Trust made a presentation to City Council on February 11 and asked for $30,000 in unrestricted funding to be released to the Trust.

Mike Cooney, executive director of the Chelan Valley Housing Trust, gave a short presentation to the Chelan City Council at the February 11th meeting.

Affordable housing has been identified as Chelan’s largest problem. The idea behind CVHT (Chelan Valley Housing Trust) is to secure property and build homes for residents who are making less than $54,000 a year.

“We are committed to building homes for lower to middle income families,” said Cooney. “We started three to four years age and the Housing Trust was formed.” Cooney said the organization has 12 board members and is currently getting ready to build five town homes behind City Hall on Emerson Street. Emerson Village will have a price point of $200,000.

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Emerson Village will be the first project to be completed by the CVHT with five town homes being constructed this summer at a price point of $200,000.

“We have raised a considerable amount of money,” said Cooney. He was at Council to request the release of $30,000 from the $47,000 that the Lookout has so far contributed for affordable housing. For each home sold at the Lookout, they donate $1,000 specifically for affordable housing needs. “We are asking the Council to release $30,000 of that money to purchase land,” said Cooney. This would leave some of that money for Habitat for Humanity.

“We feel we are on the right track. I’ve been to Olympia several times to discuss these issues.” It is a known fact that many employers and small businesses are struggling to find and retain employees. A lot of the local employees are living outside the Lake Chelan Valley which creates instability and employee turnover.

Councilman Tim Hollingsworth stated that he was President of the LCHT and wouldn’t vote on the release of the funds, but added that he felt it was appropriate to ask questions.

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Councilman Tim Hollingsworth is also the President of the CVHT

City Finance Administrator Steve Thornton said release of the funds would require City Council approval. Hollingsworth replied that this money is unrestricted funds. City Attorney Quentin Batjer added that the $47,000 collected so far from the Lookout is earmarked for affordable housing only.

Councilman Servando Robledo asked if the Council should have a resolution. Batjer said that a policy could be considered. Councilman Ray Dobbs (on a phone connection) asked if this could be reviewed.

Cooney stated that the City is in the second year of a five year $20,000 donation for construction of affordable and low income housing and added that Chelan County has just matched that donation because the LCHT covers the entire Valley.

Dobbs asked what other outside funding sources have donated. Cooney replied that private donors and other businesses have donated funding for this purpose. “We have $280,000 currently,” said Cooney. Thornton said that the City Funds and other funds are not being co-mingled. Robledo said the City should be consistent and require people to come back to Council and report.

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Councilman Servando Robledo wants organizations to be required to report financial information to the Council on their activities.

Mayor Bob Goedde said that the staff should set up criteria for release of funds. Cooney replied that he would like to come to Council and give quarterly reports. “We are here to get it done,” stated Cooney. “We are not asking for anything unreasonable.”

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Interim City Administrator wants the City to develop policies and criteria for handling affordable housing funds.

City Administrator Wade Ferris stated that to be fair to organizations the City needs to come up with criteria and policies.

Councilman Peter Jamtgaard asked what the definition of affordable housing is? Cooney said he would send the Council that definition by email the next morning. He went on to say that LCHT is not competing or overlapping with Habitat for Humanity.

Dobbs asked that the City reach out to Habitat and Hollingsworth replied that they have already done that. Councilman John Olsen remarked that it should also be noted that Steve Kline sold the property to be build on at a much reduced price to another buyer who then sold it to the Trust for a bargain rate. Hollingsworth said it was gratifying including all of the in-king contributions that are making this project come to life.

The next City Council meeting on Tuesday, February 25, will bring this issue back up with a resolution to release the funds.

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