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The sign at the end of the block was rudimentary in design, yet monumental in human spirit as the surrounding neighborhood extended a hand of friendship.

Three simple words painted onto a sheet of plywood fastened to the fence read, “Welcome home neighbors,” seemed only fitting for the grand opening of the Spurling Court facility, which is being termed as the first affordable housing project with homeless variable in the past 18 years.

On Thursday morning, dignitaries from the city of Ellensburg, Kittitas County, the Kittitas County Chamber of Commerce, HopeSource and others gathered for the grand opening of the project at 1204 Rainier St. to usher in a new era of affordable housing.

Spurling Court was six years in the making and nears completion with construction crews laying the irrigation system for the final stages. The landscape is expected to be hydroseeded and trees and shrubs placed in coming weeks.

The 49-unit complex of single and two-bedroom flats and townhomes is good for future development, mayor and Affordable Housing Commission chairman Bruce Tabb said.

“This is really incredible,” Tabb said. “It’s a step in recognizing the challenges we have with affordable housing. It’s good for the now. It’s good for the future moving forward.”

HopeSource purchased the property for $375,000 in 2014 and the project is funded by several local, state and federal programs. HopeSource applied for Low Income Housing Tax Credits, which were awarded through the Housing Finance Commission. It also received a $975,000 Federal Home Loan, which is deferred for 40 years.

“In talking with others, we were very impressed with the quality of the job that was done. The project itself was very uplifting,” Kittitas County commissioner Brett Wachsmith said. “I thought it was pretty special this was one of the first projects in the past 18 years that had a homelessness variable connected to it.

“Anytime you have successful project I think it builds for the next project that comes along, The county is always a willing participant to contribute funds and help with projects.”

The city of Ellensburg waved impact fees to help reduce overall costs and Kittitas County allocated $500,000. For the Spurling Court project $95,000 will come out of the county’s affordable housing funds and $405,000 will come from the homelessness fund.

“I’m very pleased. I think it’s a very nice piece of property. People need a place called home and a roof over their heads and we were able to provide that,” said HopeSource Chief Operation Officer John Raymond.

“We’re providing housing for working families and providing a place that is as nice as other places you pay a lot more money for in this market today.”

The occupancy rate at Spurling Court is nearly 90% already and the management company Coast Real Estate Services intends to have the single and double-bedroom flats and townhomes fully occupied by June 30.

But the other aspect of the affordable housing project is that 24 units are available for people classified as homeless. It is structured to help people get back on their feet, Raymond said.

“We have a certification process where we review the application to make sure folks in that criteria have a place to lay their heads,” he said. “The management team reviews the application and if one of these households is homeless, then we proceed to make a unit available.

“We added the homeless variable to this project to provide housing for people that might be living out of their car or deemed homeless. We can provide some funding for them and hope to help people get up on their feet.”

As dignitaries and members of the community gathered at the community center and took guided tours through the property, there was a sense of accomplishment for a job well done.

“I was very impressed, we all were,” HopeSource board member Jim Pappas said. “I like the idea there are 24 units for the homeless. During the lunch, I sat down next to a lady and asked who she was with and she said, ‘No, I’m moving in here. I’m homeless.

“She’s moving in there with her sister. It was interesting for me to listen to the woman talk about her difficulty and finding this spot. It really warmed my heart that we could help.”

It was a good piece of work and a step in the right direction during a year where America lost, won, failed, cried, and laughed, but did not fold in the crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s exciting to see and I really appreciate the commitment to this project,” councilman David Miller said. “These projects don’t happen overnight and it takes real dedication and skill to complete the process.

“I think it’s a great addition to the community. I think it’s something we haven’t seen for a while, and it’s definitely needed. If they do complete full occupancy by the end of the month, that would be a really good indication of demand. There is certainly need and I think this is going to be great benefit to the community.”

Rodney Harwood: award-winning journalist and columnist. Lover of golf and the written word. I can be reached at rharwood@kvnews.com

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