The Kennewick Housing Authority is one step closer to being able to break ground on a $6.7 million affordable housing project in central Kennewick.
The Washington State Department of Commerce recently awarded a $1.1 million Housing Trust Fund grant.
The 32-unit project, planned at 408 N. Volland St., has been seven years in the making. It will serve a diverse group of low-income Tri-City families and individuals, said Lona Hammer, Kennewick Housing Authority's new executive director.
"We felt that this was just a critical piece in terms of what community needs were," said Tom Moak, chairman of the housing authority's commission.
Units will be available for those who are at 30 percent to 60 percent of the area's median income, Hammer said. Some units will be set aside to serve those with disabilities and special needs as well as some homeless.
They plan to build one-bedroom, two-bedroom and three-bedroom units, she said. One of the units will be used by the manager.
"We think it is a great location because of access to medical and a close grocery store," Hammer said, as well as bus routes.
The housing authority had asked for housing trust fund dollars for several years, Hammer said. Now, they finally have the grant that will help them move forward on securing the rest of the financing for the project.
Housing authority officials hope to fund the bulk of the Volland Street project using the Washington State Housing Finance Commission's low-income tax credit program. Hammer said the housing authority is applying for $4.6 million in tax credits by Jan. 17.
Exactly when the project will be built will depend on whether the housing authority's tax credit application is funded, Hammer said.
If the housing authority's application is successful, Hammer said it will create a limited liability partnership with an investor as a partner. The investor would reap the benefits of the tax credit, and has not been chosen at this point.
The city of Kennewick has awarded a $50,000 Community Development Block Grant for the project, Hammer said. Benton County has also dedicated about $314,000 for it.
"Us building 31 units is a start," Hammer said. "Certainly the need is there in our community."
The area has an estimated 3,100 renter households who are at 30 percent or less of the area median income, according to a recent study. There are another 5,900 at about 40 percent of the area median income, and 2,200 at 60 percent of the area median income.
There is room where the housing authority could expand the Volland Street development in the future, if there is funding available, Hammer said.
The Volland Street project is meant to meet the needs that Tri-City residents expressed in a survey done by the housing authority, Community Action Connections and Domestic Violence Services of Benton and Franklin Counties, Moak said.
"We still have housing deficiencies and a need for services," he said.
The Volland Street project will be supported with Section 8 housing vouchers that are tied to the units, Hammer said. Section 8 is a federally subsidized program through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that provides rental assistance for families whose income falls below a certain threshold.
The housing authority serves about 1,313 families in the Kennewick area through Section 8 vouchers, Hammer said. Families use the vouchers to rent from local landlords in Kennewick or up all the way to Prosser.
The Kennewick Housing Authority also operates about 190 units of public housing in two locations in Kennewick, she said. Families live in the duplexes at Sunnyslope Homes, and seniors and disabled families and individuals live at Keewaydin Plaza.
The housing authority also operates the HUD-funded Columbia Park Apartments in Richland.
There is a waiting list for both programs, but the housing authority does experience turnover, Hammer said. Working families, individuals with permanent disabilities and domestic violence victims are given priority.
-- Kristi Pihl: 582-1512; email@example.com