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Addressing the Affordability Crisis: Clallam County’s Holistic Housing Strategies

Policy and Advocacy
Addressing the Affordability Crisis: Clallam County’s Holistic Housing Strategies

When I moved to Clallam County a few years ago, I had no idea what a housing crisis the area was facing. As a newcomer, I was just searching for an affordable place to call home, but the more I learned about the region’s struggles, the more I realized the gravity of the situation.

The statistics are staggering. According to the Clallam County Homelessness Task Force’s 5-Year Plan, the county has a rental vacancy rate of just 1%, meaning there’s an acute shortage of available housing. And with median home prices soaring to over $400,000, homeownership has become a distant dream for many. It’s no wonder that homelessness has been on the rise, with an estimated 500 individuals experiencing houselessness on any given night.

But the team at the Homelessness Assistance and Coordinated Care (HACC) housing organization is determined to tackle this crisis head-on. They’ve developed a holistic strategy that goes beyond just building more units. Instead, they’re taking a multifaceted approach to address the root causes of the affordability crisis and create sustainable solutions.

Expanding the Housing Supply

One of the key pillars of HACC’s strategy is to increase the overall housing supply in Clallam County. As the Pierce County Housing Action Strategy points out, “Increasing the housing supply, particularly the supply of affordable and accessible housing, is critical to meeting the housing needs of all residents.”

To that end, HACC is collaborating with local governments, developers, and community organizations to identify and repurpose underutilized land and buildings for affordable housing projects. They’re also exploring innovative construction methods, like modular and prefabricated homes, to streamline the building process and keep costs down.

But it’s not just about quantity – HACC is also focused on ensuring a diverse range of housing options. They’re working to create a mix of single-family homes, townhouses, and multifamily developments, catering to the varied needs and preferences of the community.

“It’s not a one-size-fits-all solution,” explains HACC’s housing development manager, Sarah. “By offering a variety of housing types, we can better accommodate the diverse needs of our residents, from young families to seniors to those with special accessibility requirements.”

Preserving Existing Affordable Homes

While expanding the housing supply is crucial, HACC also recognizes the importance of preserving the affordable homes that already exist in Clallam County. This is a key strategy outlined in the Washington State Affordable Housing Advisory Board’s (AHAB) Housing Advisory Plan for 2023-2028.

“We can’t just focus on building new units,” says HACC’s policy director, Michael. “We also need to make sure the affordable homes we already have remain affordable and in good condition for the long term.”

To achieve this, HACC is partnering with local landlords and property management companies to implement rent stabilization policies and provide financial incentives for maintaining affordable rents. They’re also exploring ways to protect residents from the risk of displacement, such as tenant protections and right-to-purchase programs.

One innovative approach HACC is taking is the creation of a community land trust. This model separates the ownership of the land from the ownership of the home, ensuring long-term affordability by limiting the resale price of the property.

“It’s a way to keep homes affordable in perpetuity,” explains Michael. “The land trust owns the land, while the homeowner owns the structure, which significantly reduces the overall cost of homeownership.”

Addressing the Needs of Vulnerable Populations

While increasing the overall housing supply and preserving existing affordable homes are crucial, HACC recognizes that certain groups within the community face disproportionate barriers to accessing safe and stable housing. That’s why they’re also focusing on targeted strategies to address the needs of these vulnerable populations.

For example, the Clallam County Homelessness Task Force’s 5-Year Plan highlights the unique challenges faced by individuals experiencing homelessness. HACC is working to expand the availability of transitional and permanent supportive housing, as well as strengthen the coordination of social services and case management.

“It’s not enough to just provide a roof over someone’s head,” says HACC’s social services coordinator, Emily. “We also need to address the underlying issues that may have led to their homelessness, such as mental health challenges, substance abuse, or lack of job training and employment opportunities.”

HACC is also collaborating with local organizations to support the housing needs of marginalized communities, such as low-income families, seniors, and individuals with disabilities. This includes developing accessible and adaptable housing units, as well as providing financial assistance and housing counseling.

Fostering Inclusive and Equitable Communities

At the heart of HACC’s approach is a commitment to creating inclusive and equitable communities throughout Clallam County. They recognize that affordable housing is not just about the physical structures, but also the social fabric that surrounds them.

“We want to build communities where people of all backgrounds and income levels can thrive,” says HACC’s community engagement manager, Lila. “That means ensuring access to quality schools, healthcare, transportation, and other essential services, as well as fostering a sense of belonging and community pride.”

To achieve this, HACC is partnering with local organizations to develop community-driven plans that address the unique needs and priorities of each neighborhood. They’re also working to engage residents in the decision-making process, ensuring that the voices of marginalized groups are heard and their perspectives are incorporated into the solutions.

One example of this is HACC’s collaboration with the Clallam County Equity and Inclusion Task Force. Together, they’re developing a framework for inclusive community development, focusing on issues like fair housing, equitable access to resources, and the prevention of displacement.

“It’s not enough to just build affordable housing,” says Lila. “We need to create communities where everyone feels welcomed, valued, and empowered to contribute to the well-being of the neighborhood.”

Leveraging Partnerships and Funding

Addressing the complex and multifaceted affordable housing crisis in Clallam County requires a concerted effort from a range of stakeholders. That’s why HACC has been actively cultivating partnerships and seeking out innovative funding sources to support their comprehensive housing strategies.

“We can’t do this alone,” says HACC’s executive director, David. “We’re working closely with local governments, businesses, philanthropic organizations, and community groups to pool our resources and expertise.”

One key partnership is with the Clallam County Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, which provides funding for affordable housing projects and community development initiatives. HACC has also secured grants from the Washington State Department of Commerce and private foundations to support their work.

But funding is just one piece of the puzzle. HACC is also leveraging the knowledge and connections of their partners to identify best practices, share resources, and streamline the development and implementation of their housing strategies.

“By working collaboratively, we can achieve so much more than we could on our own,” says David. “Our partners bring valuable perspectives, and together, we can create truly transformative change in our communities.”

Conclusion: A Brighter Future for Clallam County

As I reflect on my journey in Clallam County, I’m struck by the determination and ingenuity of the HACC team and their partners. They’ve recognized the urgency of the affordable housing crisis and are taking bold, innovative steps to address it.

By expanding the housing supply, preserving existing affordable homes, addressing the needs of vulnerable populations, and fostering inclusive and equitable communities, HACC is laying the foundation for a more prosperous and resilient future for Clallam County.

It’s not going to be an easy road, but with the organization’s holistic approach and the support of the community, I’m hopeful that we can overcome the affordability crisis and ensure that everyone in Clallam County has access to a safe, stable, and affordable place to call home.

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