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Kelso City Council votes on housing moratorium and federal housing funds
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Kelso City Council votes on housing moratorium and federal housing funds

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Kelso City Hall

Kelso City Hall.

The Kelso City Council had to reapprove the city’s moratorium on new halfway houses after the initial version lapsed early.

The City Council had approved the six-month moratorium in May as part of an effort to prevent two or more sex offenders from living in the same place. Kelso did not hold the required public hearing on the ordinance within 60 days of its approval, so the moratorium technically expired on July 17.

Both the vote on the moratorium and a public hearing on it were held during Tuesday’s council meeting. Acting Mayor Mike Karnofski said there would be more public hearings on the issue over the next six months, as city staff worked to create a more permanent ordinance related to housing sex offenders and felons.

The moratorium only affects new land-use applications in Kelso and not existing halfway houses. When the moratorium was first approved by City Council in May, Community Director Michael Kardas said he had not received new applications for halfway homes or similar residences since 2013.

Before the council meeting, there was a workshop presentation on consolidated federal housing funds. The Longview-Kelso HOME Consortium is jointly applying for the next five years of funding by the Department of Housing and Urban Development as well as one-time money through the American Rescue Plan Act.

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Longview’s community development director, Adam Trimble, told council that Kelso could receive up to $330,000 between the two federal sources. Trimble ran through possible uses of those funds to assist new low-income housing developments or help individual homeowners and renters.

“Cities typically go out to bid for housing projects. We need to decide what projects to request bids and proposals for and that’s what this plan does,” Trimble said.

Council voted to approve the consolidated request during Tuesday’s meeting. Councilmembers said the federal dollars, a quarter of the total asked for by the consortium, could go further by rehabilitating owned and rented properties to keep low-income residents from losing their homes instead of putting the money into new construction.

“A lot of our homeowners are elderly, a lot of them may need help getting their homes up to code,” councilwoman Lisa Alexander said.

Trimble said the city’s housing priorities determined which housing projects and were most likely to receive money. Once the federal funding is doled out in the next few months, Longview and Kelso are able to take different actions with their subset of the money.

The Longview City Council saw a similar presentation from Trimble earlier this month and will vote to approve the joint funding request at the July 27 council meeting.

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