Columbia Cascade Housing Corporation (CCHC) has decided to terminate existing agreements and discontinue efforts to advance a proposed affordable housing development on Tax Lot 700 in Hood River.

The announcement leaves uncertain the fate of the controversial housing project proposal for property on Wasco and 20th streets.

A presentation is scheduled for Monday’s city council meeting by CCHC’s Executive Director Joel Madsen, according to City Manager Rachael Fuller.

Agenda notes: Council was scheduled to hold a public hearing to formalize its agreement with CCHS on the sale and partnership, but that matter is off the agenda, Mayor Paul Blackburn said.

“The resolution is now moot,” he said. In addition, the agenda has been changed to add an executive session for the council to discuss “how to proceed with the LUBA appeal,” Blackburn said. (Details on A8.)

CCHC is a not-for-profit affordable housing developer, based in The Dalles, that partnered in June 2017 with the City of Hood River for the project, when the Hood River City Council rezoned tax Lot 700 for affordable housing.

“CCHC is committed to providing affordable housing opportunities for lower income households throughout the region,” said Scott Clements, CCHC’s board president in a press release.

However, Madsen said Thursday, “We will not continue to participate in the legal proceedings on the zone change or continue seeking capital funding for the intended development.” Madsen is also executive director of Mid-Columbia Housing Authority. He said, “Our team here at CCHC sees daily the challenges that all too many face in seeking stable, affordable homes in Hood River and the surrounding areas. Our current resources do not stretch far enough to meet this need. 

“We are greatly saddened knowing this was the closest our community has been to providing opportunity to people that have been marginalized, pushed out and struggle to afford their housing costs in Hood River,” Madsen said.

Blackburn said, “the City Council had been with pursuing with this opportunity to realize its top priority of providing affordable housing, but now it appears that is not going to happen.”

“Those of us who advocate for Hood River parks appreciate and support Columbia Cascade Housing Corporation’s important mission to provide housing for the most needy in our community,” said Susan Crowley, a leading opponent of the rezone and plans to develop part of Lot 700. Crowley currently has an appeal of the rezone pending with Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals.

“It has always been our understanding that the desire of the city to re-zone the property to R-3 was specifically, and solely, to allow a portion of Lot 700 to be developed to meet the identified need for affordable housing,” Madsen said. “It is not clear how our decision to discontinue participation in the affordable housing development on Lot 700 will impact the zone change and the Crowley appeal of such.”

“Park advocates feel that housing development should not happen at the expense of our local parks. Our local parks serve all community members, particularly those of modest income,” Crowley said.

Clements said, “CCHC has worked intently on a development concept that would produce 65 affordable rental homes and preserve a significant amount of open space on Tax Lot 700.

“During the past few years, the proposed development experienced tenacious legal opposition from a select few and has not been successful to-date in securing the necessary funding to advance this important community development,” Clements said.

“This decision to wind down our involvement on Lot 700’s affordable housing development has not been taken lightly,” Clements said. “While our mission to provide affordable housing options may no longer come to fruition on Lot 700, we know that we put our best foot forward in our partnership with the city and the Mid-Columbia Housing Authority to create opportunity for those whose needs are the greatest.

Measure 14-67

Crowley suggested looking ahead to the November ballot, when city residents will be asked to vote on parks initiative Measure 14-67.

The measure will call for an amendment to the city charter requiring any change in use of city parks to be put to a public vote. The measure qualified for the ballot following an initiative petition drive this spring led by Hood River residents Tracey Tomashpol and Brian Carlstrom.

Tomashpol said, “(To) let the people choose when an alternative use for a park was appropriate seemed the best way to let the people protect their parks. The city’s parks are owned by the people of the city, for whose benefit they’re established, and who support them with their taxes and enjoy them with their families,” Tomashpol said. “There are vacant lands owned by the city and county that are not being used as parks that could be used for other admirable purposes like affordable housing. There are other vacant lots that can be purchased. We have other choices.”

 Crowley said, “If citizens want to assure that our parks remain protected, they should vote ‘yes’ on Initiative 14-67. 14-67 protects city parks for all to enjoy now and in the future. We can have both. We should have both. We don’t need to choose between them.”

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