Dedication to helping others helps Commerce team members meet the challenges of COVID-19

  • July 31, 2020

I am proud of the way our Commerce team is embracing the immense challenges of COVID-19. The pandemic forced our staff into a new world of remote work, but each team member prioritized their work, and we continue to advance important projects that are strengthening communities throughout the state because of their dedication to helping others.

For example, in our Housing Finance Unit, the pandemic hit at a time when their workload had more than doubled from the previous biennium. The team went from managing $110 million in funding to $242 million in the current biennium.

“This is not only a massive increase in workload but also an increase in complexity, and the team took the challenge, overcoming any obstacles they faced with a determined attitude,” said Managing Director Corina Grigoras.

The Commerce team responsible for the state’s Housing Trust Fund is managing 11 separate funding tracks including:

  1. Two traditional Housing Trust Fund competitive Notice of Funding Applications with five special population set-asides (for 2019 ad 2020)
  2. Ultra-high Energy Efficiency competitive funding (2019 and 2020)
  3. Contribution Match competitive funding (2019 and 2020)
  4. Housing Trust Fund Portfolio Preservation competitive funding (2019)
  5. Firs Mobile Home Community Preservation funding (2019)
  6. Modular Housing competitive funding (2020)
  7. Cottage Communities competitive funding (2020)
  8. Affordability Preservation first-come-first-served funding (2020)
  9. 13 affordable housing projects funded by direct appropriation
  10. 11 enhanced shelter projects funded by direct appropriation
  11. A mobile community park preservation pilot project funded by direct appropriation

It isn’t just new funding the team is focused on either. The team providing continuous technical assistance, asset management and project monitoring for over 1,500 active contracts in the state’s $1.25-billion affordable housing portfolio.

“Sometimes it’s easy to just focus on the new projects we are funding, but projects in the current inventory are a crucial part of the affordable housing picture in the state,” Grigoras said.

Other highlights of the Housing Trust Fund team’s ongoing work include:

  • New homes: Since the beginning of this year, almost 400 new units have been placed in service to house our state’s most vulnerable populations.
  • Offsetting COVID challenges: To assist our nonprofit and housing authority providers facing unprecedented challenges due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the program has issued temporary policies for its current loans and future contracts.
  • Loan deferrals: We are in the process of amending over 300 loans in our existing portfolio to offer an anticipated $13 million worth of loan payment deferrals through the end of 2022. The deferral amendments will be vital to affordable housing providers, and help them continue their operations to provide safe and affordable housing to the most vulnerable state residents.
  • Operations and Maintenance: The Trust Fund team is collaborating with their colleagues in the Housing Assistance Unit to implement a new $15 million funding round that provides O&M and supportive services funds to affordable housing properties and units dedicated to extremely low-income people in permanent supportive housing settings. In addition, the team continues to provide O&M funding through our traditional program that supports viability of 1200 units in 67 projects statewide.
  • Federal funding: Commerce administers the federal HOME and National Housing Trust Fund programs, which provide an additional nearly $9 million in capital and rent assistance to the affordable housing community each year.

Learn more about Commerce’s work on affordable housing here, and follow all of the ways we are working to strengthen communities at www.commerce.wa.gov .

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