Clover Court Update No. 4

Release date: 05/15/2017
Sponsored by: Housing Services Department

Information about Fair Housing Laws and Environmental Assessment


Fair Housing Considerations

Fair housing laws exist to ensure access to housing choice by everyone, free of discrimination. Under federal fair housing laws, it is illegal to deny access to housing to people because of their race, color, national origin, religion, gender, familial status (presence of children in a household) or disability. People with disabilities, including mental illness, have protection under fair housing statutes to ensure their equal access to housing opportunities. Washington County must comply with these fair housing laws when considering ways to provide housing for those struggling with mental illness.


Community members also have the right, under First Amendment free speech protections, to express their opposition to projects on any basis. However, according to the Fair Housing Council (FHCO) of Oregon, land use and other public decisions may not be made because of discriminatory concerns or assumptions, such as the belief that mentally ill people pose a danger to the community. Determining whether someone poses a direct threat must be made on an individual basis and cannot be based on speculation about a group of people or how individuals who are part of that group might act. For more on fair housing laws, see the publication " Finding Common Ground—Guide for Neighbors" provided by the Fair Housing Council of Oregon.


Environmental Assessment Complete and Public Comment Period Begins

Prior to committing federal funds to a site, or making any kind of choice limiting action, an environmental assessment of the site must be made based on prescribed standards of the National Environmental Policy Act (24 CFR Part 58). The purpose of the review is to document that HUD-funded projects are not harming the environment and that the environment is not impacting our projects to provide decent, safe, and affordable housing.  

An environmental review of the property at 17025 SW Bany Road has concluded with a finding that the proposed Clover Court development would have no significant impact on the environment. The independent evaluators who examined the site as part of this review specifically concluded that:

  • soils on the site were suitable for the planned development,
  • no previous contamination was evident,
  • historic preservation and endangered species protections were not applicable,
  • the proposed design for the development would adequately address noise levels, and
  • the aquifers and drainage planned for the site would channel storm water appropriately.

The full report is available at the Clover Court website. 

A public notice of the 30 day comment period was published in the Oregonian on Sunday, May 14, 2017 with the comment period beginning on Monday, May 15. Currently, the federal funds allocated for this project are from the continuum of Care program. However, to accommodate the possibility of future HOME funding in this project, both programs are mentioned in the notice.

The first of two public comment periods will now begin regarding the findings in the environmental review.

Local 30 Day Public Comment Period
The first public comment period will be 30 days long, extending from May 14 until June 13. These public comments must be:

  • Submitted in writing, and
  • Sent to the Washington County Office of Community Development, 328 W. Main Street, Suite 100, Hillsboro, OR 97123 or cdbg@co.washington.or.us

The Office of Community Development will work to provide responses within this period.

Federal 15 Day Public Comment Period
The second public comment period will be 15 days long starting within a week or more after the first public comment period ends. This time the Portland Field Office of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development will receive comments as this federal agency considers releasing funds that had previously been awarded to Washington County for the purpose of supporting the Clover Court proposal. U.S. HUD can only object if:

  • certification of the environmental review was not signed by the certifying officer at Washington County Office of Community Development;
  • the environmental review has omitted a step or failed to make a decision or finding required by HUD regulations at 24 CFR Part 58;
  • Washington County has committed funds or incurred costs not authorized by 24 CFR Part 58 before approval of a release of funds by HUD; or
  • another federal agency acting pursuant to 40 CFR Part 1504 has submitted a written finding that the project is unsatisfactory from the standpoint of environmental quality.

Objections must be prepared and submitted in accordance with the required procedures (24 CFR Part 58) and shall be addressed to HUD at 1220 SW 3rd Avenue, Suite 400, Portland, Oregon 97204. Email submissions will not be accepted.

Reminder about Mental Illness Awareness Workshop
The proposed Clover Court development has sparked many questions and concerns about individuals in our community who face mental health challenges. The public is invited to attend one of two free presentations about issues surrounding mental illness. Due to limited seating, online registration is required for either Tuesday May 30 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. or on Wednesday May 31 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Both sessions will be held at Sequoia Mental Health, 4585 SW 185th Avenue in Aloha.

Childcare will not be provided and those with questions can contact presenter Paul Underwood with the Washington County chapter of NAMI at Paul.namiwashco@gmail.com or at 503-356-6835.


Background

Washington County has a long-standing policy through which the Board of Commissioners may transfer ownership of surplus property to the County Housing Authority and to non-profit organizations that create and manage affordable homes. This is one way the county tries to address the critical shortage of affordable housing and to leverage additional resources to prevent homelessness.

Washington County's approach has been to work together with community partners to address this crisis following the "Housing First" model for ending homelessness. Housing First is a nation-wide strategy that prioritizes providing people experiencing homelessness with permanent housing as quickly as possible, and then providing voluntary supportive services as needed, to ensure that families and individuals do not cycle back into homelessness.

Washington County, along with the rest of the Portland area, is suffering from an affordable housing crisis that disproportionately impacts those with low incomes and mental illness. The County is currently working through "Year 9" of a "10-Year Plan to End Homelessness." Although great strides have been made, Washington County still lacks over 14,000 housing units for low and extremely low income residents to accommodate this great need.

More information can be found at the Clover Court Proposal webpage.

Media Contact:

Julie, Public & Govt. Affairs Assistant
503-846-8685
Julie_McCloud@co.washington.or.us