YAKIMA, Wash. -- The good news: Federal officials have approved the Yakima Housing Authority’s application to turn the former Marine Corps Reserve armory into housing for homeless veterans.
The less-good news: Given the time needed to secure grant funding and conduct environmental assessments, construction likely won’t begin until mid-2018.
Still, this is a positive step for Yakima, said Housing Authority director Lowel Krueger.
“It’s a relief,” he said. “We’ve been working on this for months, trying to get to this point. ... We think the vision for the property is a great vision for this area, and we think we’ll really be able to help start tackling our issues with homelessness.”
The federal Department of Health and Human Services is awarding the building at 1702 Tahoma Ave. to the Housing Authority at no cost, though its approval only grants a three-year lease “with renewal options.” To make it permanent, the Housing Authority still has to prove that it can secure funding through the Low Income Housing Tax Credit program.
Housing Authority estimates put the total cost of the project at $10 million, most of which will be supplied by a private investor receiving the Low Income Housing Tax Credit to make the project more affordable, if all goes according to plan.
A specific investor hasn’t been nailed down yet; once the tax credit comes through, the Housing Authority will put out a request for proposal for potential investors to bid on.
The next step is to complete an environmental assessment on the property.
“I wouldn’t anticipate us having full access to the land till midyear,” Krueger said.
He’s already starting funding applications. Housing Trust Fund applications usually come out in the middle of the year, then awards should go out by the end of 2017.
After that, Low Income Housing Tax Credit applications are due in January 2018, with awards sent out in April.
Only then can construction begin — which is “the shortest, easiest part of it,” Krueger said. “I wish it could go faster.”
Ultimately, the plan for the armory is to have 38 housing units: 10 singles and 24 one- or two-bedroom units for families.
But to truly serve homeless veterans, particularly those who are chronically homeless and may need complicated medical and mental health care in order to be successful in housing, the Housing Authority wants the armory to become a one-stop shop for veterans’ services, with medical and dental exam rooms, case management, showers and laundry all on site.
The Housing Authority will partner with Yakima Neighborhood Health Services on the medical and dental care, and with case workers from the Veterans Administration to work with veterans on issues such as drug and alcohol abuse.
“I think we can put together a good program that will be really unique to Washington state and Eastern Washington,” Krueger said.
“We’re very, very excited.”