Olympia City Council to weigh first Home Fund award this week

Residents settle in at Plum Street Village

Residents and staff talk about Olympia's Plum Street tiny home village during a April 23 tour.
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Residents and staff talk about Olympia's Plum Street tiny home village during a April 23 tour.

More than a year after Olympia voters approved a sales tax increase to fund affordable housing projects, the City Council is set to take up a recommendation on how to spend the money.

The Home Fund has $1.3 million to award to construction projects this year. Awards won’t fully fund projects but are intended to help groups leverage other dollars.

The fund also pays operating costs for homeless and housing services.

On Tuesday, the City Council will hear a recommendation from the advisory board that reviewed funding applications to award $1.1 million to a proposed housing and shelter facility on city-owned property on Martin Way East.

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The Seattle-based Low Income Housing Institute, or LIHI, and Interfaith Works are working together on the $18.5 million project, set to open in late 2021, according to their application.

LIHI would be the developer and property manager for 60 units of permanent supportive housing for people who are mentally ill or homeless, while Interfaith Works would operate a 24-hour shelter with 60 beds, replacing its existing 42-bed shelter in the basement of First Christian Church in downtown.

The city bought the Martin Way property last year for $1.35 million, which it plans to pay off using Home Fund money, according to Cary Retlin, the city’s Home Fund manager. At the time, officials said they wanted to eventually build permanent supportive housing there and floated the idea of relocating Interfaith Works’ shelter.

Retlin said LIHI is now in talks with the city to buy the property for a “nominal cost.”

LIHI develops, owns and operates low-income housing throughout Western Washington, including Billy Frank Jr. Place in downtown Olympia that opened in 2017. It also operates tiny home villages for homeless people, including the one the city opened earlier this year near Plum Street Southeast.

The city received two other applications for Home Fund money.

Family Support Center of South Sound requested $1.6 million to help build 44 units for homeless families and domestic violence survivors with on-site support services on land it already owns across from its office on Seventh Avenue Southwest.

Construction would begin in late 2020 and units would be leased in early 2022, according to its application.

A third application from Horizon Housing Alliance asked for $100,000 to help build about 70 units for low-income and homeless families on Alta Street Southwest.

Retlin said the city may consider another round of Home Fund awards in the fall.

The City Council will meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 601 Fourth Ave. E.

Follow more of our reporting on Homelessness in Thurston County

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Abby Spegman joined The Olympian in 2017. She covers the city of Olympia and a little bit of everything else. She previously worked at newspapers in Oregon, New Hampshire and Hawaii.