A 60-unit affordable housing project on Clay Street is a step closer to becoming reality after the Ashland City Council approved using $345,000 in federal grants to pay for the project's streets.

A 60-unit affordable housing project on Clay Street is a step closer to becoming reality after the City Council approved using $345,000 in federal grants to pay for the project's streets.

The federal Community Development Block Grants pass through the city to recipients of the council's choosing.

The council approved awarding the money to the Jackson County Housing Authority, which will build apartments on land the county and City of Ashland acquired together.

On Nov. 4, the council decided to pursue the affordable housing project when it approved a swap of city land along with city and Housing Authority funds totaling $3.6 million for the 10-acre Clay Street property.

In awarding the $345,000 in federal funds for the Clay Street project, the council turned down requests to fund projects that would have helped people with disabilities.

Councilor Kate Jackson said all the project proposals submitted to the city were valuable, but she noted, "We unfortunately have to make a choice."

Ashland Supportive Housing sought $345,000 to buy a house where people with physical disabilities could live and receive support services.

Sue Crader, executive director of Ashland Supportive Housing, said the house would have been for people who need medical care. She said two people who are only in their 40s and 50s live in a local nursing home because there are no homes to serve them. The two would have been among those who could have lived at the house.

Pathway Enterprises, Inc., has two group homes that each house five developmentally disabled adults. The organization wanted $20,000 to hire a staff person to assist some of the adults so they could move into more independent living arrangements, such as living in an apartment or duplex. Many of the adults already have jobs working as custodians for the city of Ashland and Southern Oregon University.

Councilor Eric Navickas proposed that the council award Pathway Enterprises $20,000 and lower the grant amount to Jackson County Housing Authority to $325,000.

He said giving $20,000 less to the Clay Street affordable housing project wouldn't jeopardize its development, while giving some money to Pathway Enterprises would help people with developmental disabilities.

Navickas and councilors Kate Jackson and David Chapman voted to give $20,000 to Pathway Enterprises, but they were out-voted by councilors Alice Hardesty, Cate Hartzell and Russ Silbiger and Mayor John Morrison, who cast the tie-breaking vote.

After the failure of Navickas' proposal, a council majority of Navickas, Jackson, Hardesty, Hartzell and Silbiger voted to award the full amount to the Clay Street project.

Hartzell said she was glad to see Pathway Enterprises and Ashland Supportive Housing submit grant applications and urged them to come back in February 2009 when the city would have more federal Community Development Block Grant money to award. She said she wasn't willing to risk the viability of the Clay Street affordable housing project by giving $20,000 to Pathway Enterprises.

Crader, of Ashland Supportive Housing, said her group would probably be back to apply for future funding.

"The needs we are trying to fill are not going away," she said.

At $345,000, the amount awarded Tuesday night was about double the usual annual award. That's because the city did not receive any grant applications during its last granting period and carried over the funds.

The Clay Street affordable housing project must still go through the city's regular land-use planning process. Jackson County Housing Authority also needs to apply for millions of dollars in state funding in February to pay for the actual construction of the apartments.

If all goes well, construction could begin in the fall of 2009, said Betty McRoberts, the director of development for the housing authority.

Staff writer Vickie Aldous can be reached at 479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com. To post a comment, visit www.dailytidings.com.