Committee approves priorities

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The affordable housing ad hoc committee agreed to a list of eight policy recommendations for a future housing commission at Monday night’s meeting at city hall.

The recommendations call for the commission to prioritize future projects that:

  • Provide housing for those most in need according to income
  • Demonstrate how the housing will remain affordable
  • Include units with the the city’s lowest vacancy rates (currently, one-bedroom)
  • Demonstrate “most bang for the buck”
  • Reflect the city’s design standards and promote a sense of community
  • Create opportunity for a path to ownership or the building of assets
  • Encourage partnerships from all sectors of housing development: non-profits, for-profits and housing authorities

The committee also agreed to recommend that half the revenues collected from the .1 percent sales tax could be used to repay general obligation or revenue bonds.

The 17-member committee, chaired by Mayor Bruce Tabb, is expected to complete its work by June 30 of this year. After that, a permanent commission will be appointed to carry out the committee’s recommendations and oversee the affordable housing funds.

City Manager John Akers gave a presentation on bond financing for affordable housing, outlining the potential costs and income based on estimates of how much the sales tax might bring in. City officials earlier had estimated that the tax could bring in anywhere from $550,000 to $1 million per year, but Akers warned that “sales tax is a volatile funding source,” dependent on the health of the economy.

Akers also described five parcels owned by the city that could be used for affordable housing, and the possibility of using “more creative” ideas, such as tiny houses or zero lot lines.

Housing projects currently being planned are a 288-apartment complex by a private developer and a 450-bed facility by Central Washington University. Those two projects, plus other, smaller units, add up to 433 total dwelling units in process, said Angela San Filippo, long range planner for the city. The units being planned are not affordable housing, but the larger projects will be targeted to students.

The committee’s next meeting is scheduled for Monday, March 12 at 6 p.m. in city council chambers.