Yakima affordable housing project gets $765,000 state grant

YAKIMA, Wash. — About 99% of rental housing units in Yakima are occupied and the few remaining places aren’t always affordable for people looking for a place to live.

Justice Housing Yakima is working on a solution for the lack of housing options, particularly for people experiencing chronic homelessness.

“Here in Yakima it’s a big need, especially with the cost and increase in rent,” executive director David Helseth said. “There’s no way for them to be able to buy any form of housing.”

That’s why the nonprofit is working on a project to build a collection of 29 permanent supportive housing units called Cottage Hill Place, located on the backside of Milroy Park.

Each unit will be its own little cottage, big enough for one to two people with a kitchenette, a full back, front door and raised beds for gardening. Helseth said residents will also have access to supportive services through their community partners.

The nonprofit is a little bit closer to that goal, thanks to a $764,998 grant through the Connecting Housing to Infrastructure Program, created by state lawmakers in 2021 and administered by the Washington State Department of Commerce.

Anne Fritzel, housing programs manager for the growth management unit of the Department of Commerce, said the CHIP program is designed to provide additional funding for affordable housing projects.

“It funds the actual pipes in the ground, building to the main sewer and water lines and it pays for system development charges,” Fritzel said. “It really does provide extra funding at this time when billing costs are increasing.”

The latest round of grants includes $5 million to help expedite construction for more than 1,100 affordable housing units in a dozen counties across the state, in communities where affordable housing is desperately needed.

Fritzel said housing is fundamental to a person’s life because it gives them the stability to be healthy individuals, but that it’s out of reach to many people living in Washington state.

“We know that the reason homelessness is rising is because rents are increasing and it’s because our population is increasing faster than the supply of housing in our state,” Fritzel said.

Helseth said the City of Yakima applied for the CHIP grant on their behalf and they’re thankful for the funding, which gets them one step closer to their goal.

“We can do something; Yakima can pitch together and we can help make this happen and make us a better community, a stronger community where we can get more housing for people who are struggling,” Helseth said.

However, he said they need a significant amount of additional funding to be able to break ground on the project. He said they’ve applied for a $6 million grant through the state’s Housing Trust Fund and should hear back about the status of their application in mid-December.

Pending funding, they hope to break ground on the project by next summer and have it completed by early 2024. In the meantime, they are accepting donations for the project and for their organization.

Justice Housing Yakima is holding a gala auction fundraiser at 5:30 p.m. on Nov. 4 at 15 N. Naches Ave. in Yakima, in partnership with Sunrise Outreach Center to help pay for administrative costs for their organizations.