Goskagit

MOUNT VERNON — A 70-unit permanent supportive housing project planned for Mount Vernon will likely be delayed because Skagit County is unlikely to get federal funding this year.

This federal funding, distributed by the state Housing Finance Commission, could have been up to $17 million — the vast majority of the estimated cost.

Kayla Schott-Bresler, deputy county administrator, said at a meeting Wednesday with the Skagit County commissioners and staff that a change in the commission’s ranking formula this year contributed to the project’s low priority.

Permanent supportive housing combines affordable housing with case management and 24-hour onsite building management, with the goal of providing support to the most vulnerable among the homeless population.

This adds cost to construction, which penalizes the project under the commission’s new scoring system, Schott-Bresler said.

Construction had been scheduled to start in the fall.

County Commissioner Lisa Janicki said she was surprised to see the project score so poorly, considering how closely it aligns with Gov. Jay Inslee’s stated goals of reducing street homelessness.

She said because construction is essentially ready to start on the project it should get a higher priority than projects on the funding list that are still in the planning stage.

Schott-Bresler said the project was penalized for its cost because it is being compared to projects in other rural communities, such as ones in Eastern Washington where costs of land and construction are lower.

She said if the project had been considered in the same funding pool as neighboring Whatcom or Snohomish counties, it would have fared better.

“These policies do not account for the Skagit market, nor the cost of building permanent supportive housing in rural areas,” she said.

Skagit County has been working on the project with developer Catholic Housing Services since 2017, and has committed $3 million in grants and other funding. Mount Vernon has given $300,000 in grant money, and the state Housing Trust Fund has committed $1.5 million.

Schott-Bresler said county leaders hope to meet soon with members of the state commission to discuss what they see as problems with the new ranking formula.

In the meantime, she said work will continue. The project is currently undergoing environmental review, and she said the county will re-apply for funding next year.

— Reporter Brandon Stone: bstone@skagitpublishing.com, 360-416-2112, Twitter: @Brandon_SVH

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