Clallam County plans active role in affordable housing

Clallam County Commissioners indicated they will take a more robust role in addressing affordable housing as part of their response to recommendations from the Charter Review Commission.

But they also said it’s complicated considering the department, led by the nation’s only elected community development director, has the primary responsibility to set housing policy.

Affordable housing was one of five subjects brought by the Charter Review Commission, which also included recommendations on ranked-choice voting, 5G broadband access, the hiring of a forester for state Department of Natural Resources management, and code enforcement.

“Our County Charter contains a job description for the elected Director of Community Development … You will see that the job description would indicate that the DCD should be primarily responsible for helping to define and set big-picture housing policy, including affordable housing, for the county,” board chairman Mark Ozias said.

“However, the commissioners do play an overlapping role,” he said. “The community often looks to the commissioners as the responsible officials — just like the Charter Review Commission did — despite the Charter language indicating DCD’s primary leadership role.

“The Commissioners have a more formal role to play in terms of addressing the homelessness end of the housing spectrum since this is more service provision than housing/development policy.”

The county is currently planning for funds that could come from House Bill 1406, legislation that designates a portion of sales tax dollars to be returned to the county to be used toward affordable housing development, Ozias said.

In addition, the county is leading a working group on how funds from the American Recovery Plan Act (ARPA) can address the crisis, and it is working with various community partners on development projects, he said.

“The Commissioners believe that the combination of new revenue sources, primarily HB 1406 and ARPA funds, coupled with an intense community focus, provides the opportunity to make real gains in the provision and availability of affordable housing in the next few years,” Clallam County commissioners said in their response to the Charter Review Commission.

Ozias said the county has used ARPA funding to help move several housing projects forward, including projects for Habitat for Humanity, the Northwest Veterans Housing Network and Peninsula Behavioral Health.

“The Commissioners have a more formal role to play in terms of addressing the homelessness end of the housing spectrum since this is more service provision than housing/development policy.”

The county is currently planning for funds that could come from House Bill 1406, legislation that designates a portion of sales tax dollars to be returned to the county to be used toward affordable housing development, Ozias said.

In addition, the county is leading a working group on how funds from the American Recovery Plan Act (ARPA) can address the crisis, and it is working with various community partners on development projects, he said.

“The Commissioners believe that the combination of new revenue sources, primarily HB 1406 and ARPA funds, coupled with an intense community focus, provides the opportunity to make real gains in the provision and availability of affordable housing in the next few years,” the commissioners said in their response to the Charter Review Commission.

Ozias said the county has used ARPA funding to help move several housing projects forward, including projects for Habitat for Humanity, the Northwest Veterans Housing Network and Peninsula Behavioral Health.

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