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County funding ensures Everett low-barrier housing project will proceed

EVERETT — A $1.6 million commitment from the county’s coffers for Everett’s low-barrier low-income housing building was the
relief the city needed to keep from potentially losing the project altogether.
Now, the building is on track to open by fall 2019.
The county’s money was the last piece of the puzzle, and without it state funding sources that had end-of-year stipulations would have dried up, punting the project on Evergreen Way back to
square one. The 65-unit housing site will house
chronically homeless people; its builder Catholic Housing Services will receive the loan.
In an upcoming Jan. 3 City Council vote, the city is preparing to gift Catholic Housing Services 21 acres at 6107 Berkshire Drive to build the project.
The County Council approved the funding last week in a 3-1-1 vote.
Council chair Brian Sullivan was the sole no vote. He objected to how the city sited the low barrier housing space next to a middle-class, single family neighborhood without considering its opinion. How Everett selected the site wouldn’t ever match how the county would have sited such a project, he said. The city chose to place it on city-owned surplus land after considering many options, and quickly created neighborhood opposition. 
Councilwoman Stephanie Wright concurred, but said she could not vote against the project. She abstained instead.
Councilman Sam Low was among the “yes” votes. He said that while the process may not be perfect, the overall goal is compassion.
The county’s 40-year loan represents about one-tenth of the project funding. It’s estimated it will cost $16 million overall, and a majority of the money will come from private tax credit investors, according to county human services director Mary Jane Brell Vujovic.
Catholic Housing Services is currently working to get a construction loan from KeyBank. The city is giving a May 2018 deadline to
close the loan and begin construction or the nonprofit
forfeits the property, city attorney Tim Benedict said.
Additionally, the city will chip in $175,000 and the federal government is anticipated to give $450,000 from U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
The funding question came up from Sullivan to ensure it is not “Snohomish County’s project.”
Sullivan emphasized in a pre-vote speech that his vote was against the location procedure. The vote was notable because he previously committed $1 million to the project in the 2016 county budget and was hailed as a champion for the project. He also wrote a statement Nov. 15 arguing that the agreement is unnecessarily complex when the county could simply work with Catholic Housing Services directly.
During this year, he ran for mayor and came third in a four-way battle against City Councilwomen Judy Tuohy and Cassie Franklin,
who recently stepped down from being the CEO of teen shelter Cocoon House. 
The building is anticipated to be four stories with 10 one-bedroom units and 55 studio apartments.
It should finish its permitting review this month, city public safety director Hil Kaman said.
The low barrier, low income housing complex is meant to house the county’s most chronically homeless individuals, including people addicted to drugs and alcohol.
Among the housing requirements, though, its residents will not be required to participate in a service program. Case services will be provided at the housing complex. Drug use inside the complex would cause a resident to be evicted. 
People convicted of producing methamphetamine, arson, or a sex offense won’t be allowed to live there, Kaman said.
Neighbors have feared that the people in the complex would go nearby into the neighborhood to use drugs. Already some neighbors have moved out, while others feel locked into their homes and unable to afford to move, a neighborhood representative said.
“You’re going to lump it all together and put it here,” neighbor Aaron Powell pleaded to the City Council last week. “Please stop this — our children need you.”


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