Low-income project planned in Kennewick

By Kristi Pihl, Tri-City HeraldApril 21, 2013 

KENNEWICK -- Construction will begin this fall on 32 apartments for low-income Tri-City families.

The Kennewick Housing Authority recently received approval from the state Housing Finance Commission for $4.6 million in tax credits, the last piece needed to complete the $6.2 million project in central Kennewick.

The housing authority plans to build two apartment buildings on 2.25 acres across the street from Winco Foods. A playground and open space will be included, said Lona Hammer, executive director for the Kennewick Housing Authority.

The housing development at 360 N. Union St. will be named at some point, but for now it's known as the Volland Street project.

The homes will serve families who make between 30 percent and 50 percent of the area's median income. The amount varies depending on family size, but a family of four that lives on $1,671 to $2,788 in a month would qualify.

Hammer said it's difficult for families in this income bracket to pay market-rate rent without some form of help.

About 20 percent of the units will be for low-income people with disabilities, because accessible units are at a premium in the Tri-Cities, Hammer said.

Affordable housing is badly needed, local officials say.

People seem to think the Tri-Cities is in good shape for affordable housing, said Tom Moak, chairman of the housing authority's commission. But the housing authority has had a fixed number of families it has been able to help for some time.

It's taken years of work by housing authority staff and board members to get the Volland Street project to the point where construction is possible, Moak said.

Now, the housing authority will request proposals from investors interested in buying the tax credits from the state's low-income housing tax credit program.

Bellwether Housing of Seattle, the housing authority's consultant on the project, is helping with the process.

The housing authority already has secured a $1.1 million Housing Trust Fund grant, a $50,000 Community Development Block Grant through the city of Kennewick and $314,000 from Benton County for the project.

Hammer said the housing authority hopes to decide on investors in June and select an architect and engineering firm soon. The apartments will be built to meet the state's "green" standards to promote sustainablity and increase energy efficiency.

Hammer hopes construction will start in September, with housing ready for the first tenants in summer 2015. There is room to expand in the future if there is money available.

The housing likely will be managed by someone hired by the investor initially, Hammer said. But after the investor draws the benefits from the tax credits, the housing authority likely will take over.

Pasco's Community Action Connections has agreed to provide support services to families who are accepted into the Volland Street housing. Services could include first month rent, utility deposits, child care for homeless families and classes, said Judith Gidley, CAC's executive director.

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