Saturday, July 20, 2024

Senate allocates $1.3 Million for Leavenworth affordable housing project


OLYMPIA – Sen. Brad Hawkins has secured $1.3 million in the Senate's capital budget proposal for the Leavenworth Affordable Rental Project, aimed at preserving 31 apartment units for workforce housing. This funding is part of a broader effort to close the financial gap needed for the property acquisition.

Support for the project includes $600,000 from the city of Leavenworth, $860,000 from Chelan County, and an initial $1 million from the state. The proposed $1.3 million in the Senate's budget would complete the funding requirements for the acquisition.

Sen. Hawkins, who sponsored the budget request, expressed his enthusiasm for the Senate's recognition of the need for affordable housing in Leavenworth. "I’m excited the Senate’s budget recognizes our need for more affordable housing in Leavenworth. This is a unique opportunity thanks to the Marson Family, so I am excited to work with the partners to support the Leavenworth workforce."

Acknowledging the challenges of this year's capital budget, Hawkins highlighted the collaborative efforts that contributed to the success of the funding request. "The capital budget this year is especially tight, but when I learned that we might have flexibility in the budget for affordable housing, my first calls were to Mayor Florea and the Upper Valley MEND who quickly helped me submit a very compelling request," he said. He also praised the city of Leavenworth, Chelan County, and Upper Valley MEND for their partnership in advancing affordable housing initiatives.

In 2022, Hawkins worked to pass Senate Bill 5868, allowing counties to use sales tax revenue for affordable housing infrastructure. Chelan County has utilized this legislation to support the project through its Cascade Public Infrastructure Fund.

In a letter dated Jan. 24, Mayor Carl Florea of Leavenworth addressed the urgent need for this project. "This is critical because, while Leavenworth has grown its tourism workforce by over 500 workers in the past 10 years, we have not provided more than a handful of housing units for these same workers over that period of time," he wrote, indicating the challenges posed by the current housing market for local workers.

In a budget request from Jan. 23, Kaylin Bettinger of Upper Valley MEND described the housing crisis in the Upper Wenatchee Valley region. "The rural Upper Wenatchee Valley region – home to Leavenworth – is facing a crisis of affordable housing for local employees," Bettinger said, noting the impact on local businesses, public services, and the community's vibrancy.

The Senate's budget allocation for the Leavenworth Affordable Rental Project reflects a collective response to the workforce housing needs in a region impacted by tourism growth. The final budget approval, expected in early March, is awaited as a crucial step toward maintaining the community's accessibility for its residents.


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