County wants proposals for affordable housing projects

The county has about $9.5 million that commissioners have earmarked for affordable housing projects.

Island County commissioners want to hear some ideas for creating more low-income and workforce housing.

The county has about $9.5 million in American Rescue Plan Act, or ARPA, funds that commissioners have earmarked for affordable housing projects. The commissioners are now posting a formal request for proposals.

In March, commissioners decided that development of low-income and workforce housing is the highest prioritized use of the federal dollars, which are meant to help offset the impact of the pandemic. The county received a total of $16.5 million.

“Affordable housing is a critical need in Island County,” Commissioner Janet St. Clair said. “The Board of Island County Commissioners is committed to addressing that need with our investments from the American Rescue Plan Act. Investment in affordable housing is how we can make Island County strong and resilient, now and for future generations.”

A press release about the request for proposals states that the projects can consist of both rental and home ownership strategies since “both provide crucial elements for long-term, permanent housing.”

“The types of projects being considered are for pre-development, infrastructure, land or building acquisition and staff capacity,” according to the press release.

Commissioner Melanie Bacon said the commissioners are interested in increasing access to a whole gamut of affordable housing options, including workforce housing so people like teachers, nurses and restaurant workers have places to live on the island.

Bacon said the commissioners were expecting to hear from developers, nonprofits and others last spring when they announced their intentions to dedicate the money to affordable housing projects. They heard little in response, except for a Port of South Whidbey proposal to build workforce housing on the fairgrounds. Bacon said the county will likely help to fund that proposal.

Bacon said the commissioners have since learned that organizations were waiting on a formal RFP process to submit ideas.

In the spring, the commissioners agreed that they were most interested in funding pre-development work, such as studies, permitting and design; acquisition of lots where affordable housing could be constructed; rehabilitation of existing structures to low-income or transitional housing; and consultation services to help the county determine the best projects to invest in.

More information will be posted on the Island County website at—-Affordable-Housing.aspx.

Applications will be accepted online starting Oct. 3 at Submissions must be received by 4:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 14.