July 18, 2016
Submitted by OPAL
While the lack of affordable housing continues to frustrate island employers and employees alike, OPAL Community Land Trust has quietly made significant progress in developing 30 affordable rentals on North Beach Road – the first major apartment project on Orcas in nearly 30 years.
“We have secured land, sought community input, developed a preliminary design and raised nearly $1 million in private support from people who care deeply about the economic viability and future of Orcas,” said Lisa Byers, OPAL’s executive director. “Our next challenge, in addition to completing our local fundraising, is to obtain the government funding that’s needed.”
OPAL has applied for $562,672 from the federal HUD Community Development Block Grant program and will resubmit an application to the Washington State Housing Trust Fund in September. OPAL’s original HTF request for $3 million was turned down last fall.
“We have a good track record with the housing trust fund and have worked to strengthened our application,” Byers explained, “but there’s also stiff competition for limited dollars.”
In the meantime, OPAL has applied for county land use permits, received county approval for the storm-water design for the project, and selected Dawson Construction of Bellingham as general contractor, following an in-depth request for qualifications and interview process. Dawson has extensive experience building multifamily housing.
Environmental Works Community Design Center, Seattle, is the project architect. The firm specializes in affordable housing, community facilities and other public works.
OPAL staff is currently working with the general contractor and architect on value engineering for the new rental neighborhood, and is striving to meet the Department of Energy’s Zero Net Ready building standard.
In addition to government grant funding, the project will rely on dollars from the federal low income housing tax credit program. Over 90 percent of the $9 million needed for the project will come from federal and state grants, tax credits and loans. The balance will be paid for by private donations from individuals and foundations.
In pursuing government funding, OPAL staff has participated in stakeholder meetings to provide feedback on scoring and evaluation criteria for both the Housing Trust Fund and the Low Income Housing Tax Credit program in Washington.