EVERETT — The city of Everett’s low-barrier housing project hinges on its funding timeline.
The deadlines are creeping closer, and several issues remain unresolved.
That includes a promised contribution of $1.6 million from the Snohomish County Council. That money hasn’t come through yet, which has been a growing source of friction between the city and the county.
The groundbreaking schedule has been delayed, from December into January, the Everett City Council was told Wednesday night.
The housing project, now known as Safe Streets, is supposed to open its doors in 2019. Under that schedule, the City Council is supposed to vote on several related matters before the end of this year. But there aren’t a lot of meetings left to go in 2017. And the release of the $1.6 million is pending action by the County Council.
The City Council on Wednesday voted 6-0, with one member absent, to allow the mayor to sign some paperwork that might prompt movement from the county. City staff say they’ve been told to expect a County Council review Dec. 13, but the item hasn’t appeared on that meetings calendar.
The county’s portion is not a small piece of the $10.5 million construction budget. Most of those costs are borne by Catholic Housing Services and funded by tax credits and grants the city helped secure. Many of the funding sources are time-sensitive.
The project is considered fully funded once the county’s contribution arrives, the council was told. About a month ago, Mayor Ray Stephanson sent the county a letter asking when that might happen.
The county’s earlier offer had set out five requirements for release of the cash. One said the housing project had to bring in residents from throughout the county, not just Everett. The city has said only about half of the residents would be from Everett. Another requirement was that a contract would have to be signed between the city and the county.
County Council Chairman Brian Sullivan bristles at any suggestion that he’s trying to play keep-away.
“All they have to do is meet the requirements that were set out in 2016 and the money is theirs,” Sullivan said. “It’s that simple.”
The city says it has complied with the county’s criteria. A version of that initial contract is what Everett’s council approved Wednesday. It does not mention a dollar figure.
Sullivan earlier this week was reviewing a draft funding agreement, but wasn’t sure when he and his colleagues would vote on it.
Sullivan ran for mayor this year but was knocked out of a close primary contest. He’s been critical of how Everett city leaders have handled the low-barrier housing project, particularly the location they chose and the limited notice they gave neighbors before making the decision final.
Sullivan was notified last month that without the $1.6 million in place, the Safe Streets project could lose other funding sources, according to public records.
The city is providing the property for Safe Streets, with an estimated land value of $360,000. The location is 6107 Berkshire Drive, near Evergreen Way. There are supposed to be 65 units. The building permits are in final review, but the land transfer is one of the matters pending a council vote.
The City Council on Wednesday also approved a measure that would waive some development fees associated with building affordable housing. It passed with a newly added sunset clause for 2021.
The amendment followed criticism from some homeowners, along with Councilman Scott Murphy and Councilwoman Brenda Stonecipher. They all spoke of a growing financial burden on taxpayers.
“I worry a lot that we are using our utility (fund) as sort of a money bank,” Stonecipher said.
The measure could cost the city millions of dollars in potential revenue over the next few years, and utility rates could increase as a result. The measure drew support from the leaders of several public and private providers of affordable housing, who said it would encourage future development.
The Safe Streets housing budget assumes $300,000 in savings from the waiver.