Moses Lake City manager Allison Williams provided an update on the city’s plans to address the needs of people affected by homelessness in the city during Tuesday’s Grant County Board of Commissioners meeting.
“As a city, one of our big projects is the conversion of the Open Doors Sleep Center from its temporary location to a permanent location. We’ve identified a property and because of our work in this area, particularly the (Grant County) End Homelessness Plan that feeds into the City’s Housing Action Plan, we have a tremendous need for affordable housing,” Williams said.
Williams said the land for what will be referred to as the Moses Lake Transformational Campus is about 5 acres. The city is working to solicit proposals from consultants who would conduct a market analysis and develop a development plan for the property. In general, she said, the facility would be mixed-use, with temporary sleeping accommodation and semi-permanent housing options to help those facing a housing crisis to improve their overall living conditions. According to documents provided by Williams, the land is on North Central Drive, just northwest of Goodwill, across from Smulligan’s Pizza & BBQ. The site is close to three bus stops and within walking distance of the proposed location of a new sign to be erected near the intersection of Grape Drive Northeast and Beacon Road Northeast.
“Our current sleep center is spread over 1 hectare. It needs to be moved to a permanent location and updated. So that’s the first need, and then we look at market analysis to define what other needs are out there,” Williams said.
Preliminary plans for the new site would include an improved 20-unit emergency shelter that would provide those in need with immediate access to shelter, case management and stabilization services. An emergency shelter and warming center would provide opportunities for homeless people to attend to hygiene needs. In addition, a 50-unit affordable housing project with units for homeless households is proposed, taking into account green standards adopted by Washington State. Services such as rent, energy and food aid would also be coordinated at the Moses Lake Transformational Campus.
The projected cost of building the campus is estimated at $20 million, which city documents say would be halved in two phases. The funds would come from a variety of sources, including tax credit funding, equity investors and the city’s budget.
Williams said the city is also considering federal assistance, such as funding from the American Rescue Plan Act, to help build and operate the center. Total costs aren’t fixed because additional planning is required, Williams said.
Williams said she asked the county to contribute to the cost of the market analysis because each facility created by Moses Lake, the county’s largest city, would be used by clients throughout Grant County.
“(We) just want to be part of the whole county-wide process. And as the largest city, I think we can offer a place where people will come to get services anyway,” Williams said.
Borough Commissioner Danny Stone said he understands the borough is facing a housing shortage for low-income residents. He said he wants a phased approach to low-income condominium development that motivates tenants to work towards the next step of housing. He added he knew it would be a difficult situation as housing had become very expensive throughout the North West.
“The step between where some of these people are and where our housing costs are right now is a big leap. I don’t know what the lowest rent is, but my son in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, pays $2,800 a month,” Stone said.
According to Rentdata.org, a website that tracks trends in the housing market, median rents in Grant County are higher than average. A one-bedroom apartment has a median rent of $704; a two-bedroom, $870; a three-bedroom $1,245; and a four-bedroom $1,375. However, rental listings on Zillow.com show a lack of availability at or below these prices for all apartment sizes. In many cases, Zillow’s listings are nearly double the median rental rates quoted by Rentdata.
According to documents provided by Williams, as of 2020, approximately 2,100 households in Moses Lake alone would qualify for low-income or income-dependent housing under the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s guidelines. Hispanic households are about 5% more likely to qualify under These guidelines, using data from the US Census Bureau, show that about 50% of Hispanic households in Moses Lake make less than $45,000 annually — as opposed to 40% state level and 44% national level.
Stone asked Williams what role the Housing Authority of Grant County and other similar organizations needed to play in solving the housing problems of Grant County residents.
Williams said those other resources, including the El Rancho Motel and the support provided through HAGC, are essentially stretched.
To address this issue, Williams said the city plans to put together a housing task force that would engage stakeholders in the process of helping people deal with housing issues.
No formal action was taken at the meeting. However, the commissioners expressed their appreciation for the city’s efforts to address homelessness.
“It’s good to get this update from you,” Stone told Williams. “Let’s keep communicating.”
R. Hans Miller can be reached by email at [email protected]