Commerce awards $57.6 million for affordable housing projects

March 22, 2018|Community Grants, Low-income housing

Funds create 1,906 units of affordable housing for low-income and special-needs residents, including 291 units for people with chronic mental illness, 121 homes for first-time homebuyers.

OLYMPIA, WA – The Washington State Department of Commerce today announced $57.6 million in loans and grants from the state’s Housing Trust Fund for 42 affordable housing projects in communities throughout Washington. See the complete list. Commerce previously awarded $8.1 million in federal Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funds in January while waiting for passage of a state capital budget, bringing total investment for the 2017 competitive funding round to $65.7 million.

More than $53 million will go to multifamily/rental projects and $4.4 million to homeownership projects, supporting an estimated 1,307 multifamily units, 478 shelter and/or seasonal farmworker beds, and 121 homes for first-time, low-income homebuyers. This is approximately 84 percent of the trust fund’s allocation for multifamily units, and 100 percent of the homeownership allocation in the 2017-19 capital budget.

“These capital investments from our state’s Housing Trust Fund come at a crucial time, helping many Washingtonians who are finding it increasingly difficult to find appropriate and affordable housing in their communities,” said Gov. Jay Inslee.

“Providing adequate affordable housing strengthens communities by enabling more people to be self-sufficient and participate fully in the opportunities that our state’s growing economy provides,” said Commerce Director Brian Bonlender. “This is true in communities all over the state, from Spokane to Yakima to Bellingham to Vancouver, not just the Central Puget Sound region that is so often in the spotlight.”

Commerce received 76 applications in October 2017, requesting approximately $130 million for 3,378 multifamily units, and 210 homes for first-time low-income homebuyers. Awards could not be finalized until the Legislature passed a capital budget. In the meantime, Commerce awarded the $8.1 million federal HUD funds, allowing four of the projects in the applicant pool, totaling 199 multifamily/rental units, to move forward earlier.

In the 2018 legislative session, lawmakers allocated $67.8 million for competitive funding to create new affordable housing units. When the 2017-19 capital budget was enacted on Jan. 19, Commerce gave applicants the opportunity to update their applications and send in any remaining documentation. In selecting the awards, Housing Trust Fund staff worked to align to the greatest degree possible with local priorities, other public funders and with the Washington State Housing Finance Commission’s Low Income Housing Tax Credit program.

“We considered a combination of factors, including a delayed capital budget, the current affordable housing and homelessness crisis around the state, and the high level of project readiness displayed in the 2017 application pool,” said Corina Grigoras, managing director of the housing finance unit at Commerce. “We determined that the best use of funds would be to allocate the majority now, while reserving sufficient resources to hold a 2018 competitive application round later this year.”

Statute directs the department to make efforts to award at least 30 percent of its annual Housing Trust Fund competitive allocation to projects in rural areas. Historically, the allocation of available funding has been to three geographic areas, with approximately a third of the funds intended for rural areas, a third for King County projects, and a third for projects in other urban areas, such as Vancouver, Everett or Spokane. Commerce intends to maintain this statewide funding distribution over the entirety of the 2017-19 biennium.

Next Round

The next Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) is expected to be published this summer to award just over $10 million remaining in the 2017-19 multifamily allocation.

Additionally, the state Legislature appropriated $5 million for housing projects that would benefit households displaced by Governor-declared disasters. Commerce also anticipates receiving approximately $8 million from HUD’s federal HOME and National Housing Trust Fund programs.  Commerce plans to include all of these funds in their 2018 NOFA.

For 2018, projects are not required to submit Stage 1 applications. New projects, including those not receiving awards in this 2017 round, are welcome to apply. Commerce will publish additional information on its website and will distribute via email as it becomes available. Subscribe to the Housing Trust Fund mailing list

Since 1986, the Washington State Housing Trust Fund has awarded almost $1 billion in funding and helped build or preserve nearly 48,000 units of affordable housing statewide. Learn more

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