Affordable Housing

The Ellensburg Downton Community Garden on the corner of 1st Avenue and Pine Street. The city-owned land is one of potential locations for an affordable housing project.

The city of Ellensburg’s Affordable Housing Commission has received three bids for its Request For Proposal (RFP) for housing construction on city-owned properties at Bender and Water Street (parcel 541133) and the Community Garden property (parcels 937033 and 617033).

The intention is to meet with each construction group independently with the idea the Affordable Housing Commission will make its recommendation at the Nov. 7 city council meeting, according to Affordable Housing chairman Nancy Goodloe.

Of course, there still remains a possibility the Affordable Housing Commission will not accept any bid and the process will continue. But the commission is expected to meet with perspective contractors in the next 30 days.

According to Community Development Department and Long Range Planner Angela San Filippo, Habitat for Humanity, Hopesource and Crytyl Enterprises have submitted a Request For Proposal.

“They’re all different proposals, but Habitat for Humanity and Crytyl Enterprises have submitted for the same piece of property (on Water and Bender),” San Filippo said. “The property at Bender/Water Street (parcel 541133) is a city-owned piece of property that will only accommodate homes that are single-family homes because of the airport overlay zone and restrictions. The Hopesource proposal is for an apartment building.”

To be considered affordable, a one-bedroom unit in the Ellensburg area should cost $450-$500 a month; a two-bedroom, $700; and a three-bedroom, under $1,000. But the current rental market lists three-bedroom is $1,500 to $2,000, putting it out of financial reach for a number of families.

In recent studies, Kittitas County had the lowest apartment vacancy rate of counties surveyed in state — 0.5 percent, according to the Runstad Center for Real Estate Studies at the University of Washington. That’s down from 0.8 percent the year prior, the report said.

According to a state housing affordability index from the University of Washington Runstad Center for Real Estate Studies, the median price for a home in Kittitas County is $246,900. It is less than King County’s $494,500 median price, but Kittitas County is higher than Yakima County’s $163,800 and Grant County’s $151,500.

The city put a 0.1 percent sales tax in place in April of 2018, which is expected to bring in $450,000 to $500,000 a year to affordable housing projects.

When the council redid the land development code a few years ago, it added density bonuses for the creation of affordable housing developments. According to city code, a density bonus increase is based on the percentage of affordable housing units integrated into a subdivision, with a minimum of 15 percent to qualify and maximum bonus increase of 50 percent.

The Affordable Housing Commission revised the RFP and application materials to indicate the availability of city tax revenues, as well as two city-owned properties to support construction of affordable housing. The commission plans to hold off on looking into the bond market until after the proposals have been reviewed.

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