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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spokane moves closer to transferring land near Gonzaga Prep for affordable housing projects

UPDATED: Tue., Aug. 20, 2019

The city inched closer Monday to transferring five parcels of land for the development of affordable housing.

The Spokane City Council unanimously approved a letter of intent on Monday, laying a path for negotiations between the city and a network of nonprofits on the sale of land on and around North Nevada Street.

If a deal is struck, the plans spearheaded by Catholic Charities call for the construction of 96 units dedicated to affordable housing in the Logan Neighborhood.

“I’m just excited that we get to move forward with this letter of intent so we can start figuring out the logistics and answer all of the questions, but I think it’s a really important project between Catholic Charities and Gonzaga University,” said City Council President Ben Stuckart.

The facility would be open to graduates of Catholic Charities’ Rising Strong program, which provides housing and a spectrum of services to parents at risk of losing custody of their children, often due to substance abuse.

By providing a bridge of stability to Rising Strong graduates on the journey to permanent, independent housing, the property would differ from Catholic Charities’ other “haven” properties that are primarily targeted at serving the homeless.

Catholic Charities is backed in the endeavor, currently referred to under the working title “Gonzaga Haven,” by Gonzaga University, Gonzaga Preparatory School and several other area nonprofits.

The letter of intent lays out a timetable for moving forward, with a goal of closing on the deal by October 2020. The agreement is subject to a number of conditions that will be complicated by the peculiarities of the property.

The parcels in the sale would be 2809, 2811, 2817 and 2821 N. Nevada St., and 920 E. Wolverton Court.

City officials have expressed some reservations because the property, owned by the Water Department, includes a large dirt lot used for employee parking. It also contains a small ancillary office building used by code enforcement for field employees.

Before the sale is finalized, the parties would have to identify alternative office space for the dislocated employees, alternative parking for city vehicles, a new location for a school department storage facility, and introduce a new building design compatible with the neighborhood.

The city also has flagged an obstacle posed by two significant water lines that run through the area, requiring a 75-foot buffer from any new construction.

Should all of those hurdles be met, Catholic Charities believes it could have the new facility open in 2021, with each tenant earning 60 percent or less of the median area income, and priority given to those who earn 30 percent or less of the median area income.

The letter of intent does not include a sale price. Under state law, the city could strike a deal to declare the property surplus and give it to the nonprofits in exchange for the construction of affordable housing.

In addition to setting the table for negotiations, the letter also enables Catholic Charities to begin to seek funding for the complex’s construction – with about 70 percent coming from the low-income housing tax credit program, and the remaining 30 percent a mix of state housing trust fund dollars, local municipal funds and private funding.

Gonzaga University and Gonzaga Preparatory School have both voiced support for the project.

In a statement to The Spokesman-Review last week, Gonzaga University President Thayne McCulloh said the project “would provide an important hub to extend our work.”

“Gonzaga University believes that the Haven partnership, which includes many community-based organizations, holds the potential for Spokane to establish a national model for supporting community-driven change,” McCulloh said.

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