Developers wanting to rehabilitate housing for the workforce in Wasco County, or build a new structure altogether, will soon be able to get financing for the project through a new $2 million revolving loan fund.

The program is being administered by the Mid-Columbia Economic Development District, in partnership with North Central Regional Solutions and Mid-Columbia Housing Authority.

“We are essentially looking at the middle market that is not being served by other projects,” said Amanda Hoey, director of MCEDD.

She said the lack of available housing for middle-income workers had been identified by regional solutions as a potential impediment to economic development.

“Housing is a complex issue and financing is one piece that we can focus on,” said Hoey. “The intention behind this new program is to create a base of housing for individuals who work here and want to live here.”

She said state loan funds will be available within the next two weeks for a minimum amount of $250,000 per project and a maximum of $750,000.

“We have some layers in there that allow for exemptions when a project has exceptional value but that would mostly be in the more remote areas,” she said.

In order for a project to qualify, Hoey said it must provide housing for individuals at 80-120 percent of median family income, which would be $55,000 to $83,000 per year in Wasco County.

Hoey said the interest rates for the short-term loans vary — based on the risk factor of the applicant — and will range from 3.5 to 6.75 percent.

The money can be used to rehab a rental — identified by regional solutions as the top need in Wasco County. Funds can also be used to add an accessory dwelling, which would benefit Hood River and Sherman counties where there is a scarcity of housing.

Hoey told The Dalles City Council on Monday that loan funds could also be used to create living quarters above retail stores in the downtown blocks. She and Kate Sinner, coordinator for regional solutions, were present at the Feb. 23 meeting to brief the council on the loan fund and provide background on the regional solutions program.

Sinner said Oregon Gov. Tom McCall started the program in the late 1960s to leverage public, private and philanthropic resources. He also wanted to see agencies collaborate to identify and meet needs unique to their geographic area of the state

“Oregon’s a diverse state with very diverse needs,” said Sinner. “Really, the goal is to improve tangible assets on the ground.”

She said the area covered by each regional solutions program was aligned with the boundaries of economic development districts.

Sinner works with Hoey and other community leaders to set target goals for improvements and provide technical assistance to bring them to fruition.

The advisory committee for North Central Regional Solutions office includes an executive branch made up of: Mike McArthur, a former Sherman County Judge, who serves as convener; Wasco County Commissioner Rod Runyon, also a representative for the Association of Oregon Counties; and Steve Lawrence, mayor of The Dalles who also represents the League of Oregon Cities.

Hoey is joined as an additional committee member by: Ken Bailey, businessman and orchardist; Andrea Klaas, director of the Port of The Dalles; Carol McKenzie, mayor of Wasco; Maui Meyer; a businessman and Hood River County commissioner, Jeff Nicol, director of the Columbia Gorge Community College Small Business Development Center and representative of the Gorge Tech Alliance; Frank Toda, president of Columbia Gorge Community College; and Gary Thompson, the Sherman County judge.

For more information, call MCEDD at 541-296-2266 or access www.mcedd.org

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