Housing Authority considering Stanfield for rent-subsidized housing

<p>Maegan Murray photo</p><p>If everything goes according to plan, the City of Stanfield could see a housing complex similar to that of the Aspens Apartments in Hermiston being developed in Stanfield. The housing complex would feature 40 rent-subsidized units featuring a range of duplex through eight-plexes that would be managed by the Umatilla County Housing Authority.</p>

Rental housing in Stanfield is limited at best, according to members of the Stanfield City Council, but that problem could soon be resolved.

Stan Stradley, executive director of the Housing Authority of the County of Umatilla, attended the Stanfield City Council meeting Tuesday night to talk about the Housing Authority’s proposed plans to build a 40-unit rent-subsidized housing complex in Stanfield.

He said they were in talks last year with then Interim Stanfield School District Superintendent Wayne Kostur about purchasing a piece of district-owned property on the north side of town that would make for an ideal location for the housing development. He said he is hoping to continue the conversation this year with new Superintendent Shelley Liscom so that they can possibly purchase the lands to provide more rental housing that is much needed for the Stanfield community.

“We have a host of ideas for this property, but our intention tonight is to see if the community is on board with wanting affordable housing and to see what they would like to see when it comes to something new coming into their community,” he said.

Stradley said he has been charged with expanding the Housing Authority’s low-income housing property offerings into other regions of Umatilla County and that Stanfield fits the bill. He said, as of now, the Housing Authority has properties located in Hermiston, Umatilla, Boardman and Athena. He said they have wanted to build a housing development in Stanfield for a while, but because the city was designated in a flood plain, they could never get funding for the project.

“With that lifted, funding became available, and we have earnestly started looking at this,” he said. “(The school district property) seemed ideal for us. It is close to the schools, it is close to the business district, it could be high visibility for passer-bys.”

Stradley said, even though the housing they would build would be for low-income families, the quality of housing won’t be an issue. He said the housing in Stanfield would consist of duplexes, four-plexes, six-plexes and even possibly eight-plexes that would be built to the highest energy-efficiency standards. As a result, he said often times their properties are on par or even better than the best that are available in a community.

“We take pride in all of our properties and what we do with our properties,” he said. “They outshine any that are in the community ... We are not the typical landlord. We are in it for the long-haul. We look long-term in all of our properties, and we want our properties to be maintained at the highest level possible.”

They also hold a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to crime and drug and alcohol abuse.

“If there is drugs, fights, domestic violence, alcohol abuse, we take zero tolerance to that,” he said. “We eliminate those problems immediately.”

Stradley said, before they rent to a tenant, there is a heavy screening process that is involved. He said they do a previous and present landlord screening, a nation-wide criminal screening and a credit screening. He said people might not be denied because of their credit, but it gives them a lot of history on the individual.

Stradley said, for those who have been convicted of a crime, there might be a waiting period where that person has to present a clean criminal record for that duration of time before they are accepted as a tenant. He said of all their properties in Umatilla County, he can personally attest that the Housing Authority’s complexes have some of the lowest crime numbers, even compared with the non-subsidized properties in the same area.

In addition to the low crime and high-quality of the homes, Stradley said the new complex would feature a community room complete with a computer lab, a laundry facility, 24/7 management staff and security cameras.

Stradley said the rent for the housing is based on 60 percent of the median income for the area at the time. He said a tenant cannot pay more than 30 percent of their gross income. He said if they were to open the new housing complex in Stanfield today, rent payments would be about $517 for a one-bedroom, $617 for a two-bedroom, $710 for a three-bedroom and $772 for a four-bedroom. He said individuals who are on limited incomes, like elderly individuals, may pay even less as it pertains to their income level. He said those individuals receive housing vouchers to make up the difference.

Stradley said, in the short time he has taken an interest in Stanfield, he has already started to hear concerns about the fact that the city would lose out on funds because the Housing Authority is exempt from property taxes. He said, while that is true, other benefits from the property would outweigh what the city would lose from those taxes.

The city, Stradley said, would benefit from the more than $200 a month generated from the additional $5 public safety fee now required on each person’s water bill every month to support police salaries. He said the city will also receive about $73,000 in system development charges and somewhere around $60,000 in building permits.

Additionally, he said families in the 40 units will be paying water and sewer fees. Some 30 to 50 construction workers that will be hired locally will also be staying in the area while the complex is being built and will be dining at the city’s restaurants and utilizing the city’s other amenities.

“In my eyes, it is a win-win for everybody in what it could bring to the community,” he said.

In order to move forward with their plans in Stanfield, Stradley said one of the things they need is a letter of support from the Stanfield City Council. He said, otherwise, their developers will look elsewhere.

All City Council members and Mayor Thomas McCann agreed that the proposed properties would present a positive addition to Stanfield. The council voted unanimously in favor of writing a letter of support for the effort.

McCann said he feels that the properties would attract more families to the area, which would mean great things for the city of Stanfield and its residents.

“I see this proposal as a win-win situation, not only for the Housing Authority and for the city, but for giving people an opportunity to have a decent place to live,” he said. “What better place to have a decent place to live than in Stanfield?”

Stradley agreed.

“We run across a lot of people that live in Hermiston and wish they cold find a place to live in Stanfield,” he said. “Stanfield is a very desirable place for a lot of people, and they really want to live here.”

Now, Stradley said they will wait on the decision of the school district to see if they can purchase the property.

“This is all contingent upon whether or not the school district ends up selling the property to us,” he said.

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