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Council OKs Quay funding

Though $3.95 million contribution still hinges on coming details.

Last week they hinted.

During Wednesday’s budget meeting, City Councilors offered no uncertainty about whether the city should help fund the purchase and preservation of the Quay Bainbridge Apartments.

“This is worth the money we’re putting out when you consider what we’re getting back,” Councilman Bill Knobloch said.

While some councilors were more reserved in their support, all but one – Councilman Kjell Stoknes – agreed Wednesday to commit $3.95 million toward the purchase of the Quay, a 71-unit complex near Waterfront Park that has garnered the support of affordable housing advocates.

Following the council’s vote, Mayor Darlene Kordonowy announced that owners of the Quay – who had already been approached with a $12.6 million offer from developers – had signed a purchase and sale agreement with local housing agencies and the city.

Still, the purchase is far from secure. The city’s commitment to the project is contingent on several as yet unfinished details, among them an independent appraisal and cash flow analysis. Should the deal prove to be a bad one, those negotiating say it won’t go through.

The city’s money – $1.5 million would be needed in 2008 – would be pooled with $1 million raised by private donors to finance the transaction, with additional funding from grants and other sources expected to come later.

The city’s contribution would come via bonds, though the Quay’s inclusion in next year’s budget won’t be finalized until Dec. 12, when the budget is slated for approval.

The Quay purchase has gained traction over the past several weeks, with increasing pleas from residents and supporters during public comment periods at recent council meetings.

Local housing agencies have been working with the Lutheran Alliance to Create Housing to strike a deal for the complex, and those involved have reiterated several times that the timeline is tight. They say that without help from the city, the Quay would be converted to market rate housing, resulting in the displacement of most Quay residents.

Stoknes, the lone dissenter Wednesday, said he knew his vote wouldn’t be popular, but he didn’t think the deal was right for the city.

“What I think we’re dealing with here are matters of the heart,” he said. “While I’m being tugged at the heart too, I have to ask, ‘is it the right priority of government’ – I don’t think it is. I just can’t support this. I wish I could, but I can’t.”

Other councilors were somewhere in between.

“I’m torn in supporting this,” said Councilman Nezam Tooloee, who in spite of his support said market-based incentives, rather than individual purchases like the Quay, are a more effective way of addressing affordable housing issues on the island.

As proposed, the deal would preserve 51 units at the Quay as affordable rentals; seven of the remaining 20 units would be sold as affordable housing, with the remainder sold at market rate to help fund the purchase.

Council’s support came with one other caveat – the city won’t make any other contributions to affordable housing for three years.

Councilman Bob Scales said chances like the Quay are few and far between anyway.

“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity,” he said. “There’s no cheap way to do it. I’m comfortable making this choice at this time.”

Said Councilwoman Debbie Vancil: “I don’t see this as charity – it’s a social investment.”

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