Oak Harbor moves to keep affordable housing alive

The Oak Harbor City Council is determined to follow through with its promise to provide the community with affordable housing, albeit through indirect means.

The Housing Authority of Snohomish County, known as HASCO, advised the city to re-apply for the Stage I fall grant awards offered by the Washington State Department of Community, Trade & Economic Development, known as CTED, even through the department will not provide funding for projects like the one proposed by Oak Harbor during this funding cycle.

"The submittal of the Stage I application is viewed as a step to keep the project alive," said Steve Powers, city development services director, at Tuesday night's City Council meeting. "HASCO staff has encouraged the city to continue to pursue our project citing the strength of our application, the sizable contribution from the city toward the project and the community need."

Oak Harbor's request totals $3.5 million. If it's awarded, Mayor Jim Slowik said it will be used for the project's infrastructure, roadways, power hookups and stormwater drains on a five-acre parcel the city hopes to purchase off Highway 20 near 24th Street. But it cannot buy the property until it receives some form of grant money to kick-start the project.

"We can't purchase that property without having a project," Slowik said, adding that the issue it time-sensitive. "The land can't be held for a matter a years."

In addition to grant funds, Oak harbor has two surplus properties that it can sell to raise money for the affordable housing endeavor, Slowik said.

Oak Harbor originally applied for CTED's Stage I last January and Stage II in March with great hopes that the city would garner grant funding, but the city's project did not receive the grant award it had hoped for. In fact, the city received zilch.

CTED's decision to decline Oak Harbor's application last month surprised Slowik, who said the economy and increased need for the CTED grants created stiff competition for the grants.

The decision to re-submit the Stage I application to CTED is a strategy move, said Powers.

"Submitting the Stage I application again, in (HASCO's) judgement, will allow the city to continue to be a viable applicant for other housing funds," he said.

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