Auburn Council Untethers $10,000 Housing Grant

The House of God is living quarters

- Haynes

AUBURN – In a series of mixed votes and mayoral tie-breakers Monday, the Auburn City Council appeared to expand its grant program for new houses to include rehabilitation.

Mayor Scott Kudrna said the city began offering $10,000 to anyone who would build a new house six years ago, but there were no applicants until this year.

Councilman Jeff Jeanneret was earlier approved for a grant for converting a former church into a residence.

At Monday’s meeting, builder Lonnie Haynes said Jeanneret’s project was for renovation.

Jeanneret said it was for “new living space” because it had not been a house before, but Haynes said the House of God is living quarters.

The council voted to approve Haynes’ request for the grant for a $35,000 renovation project at 621 Central Ave on a 4 to 2 vote. Councilmen Chris Erickson and Jeanneret dissented.

Mayor Scott Kudrna said a $10,000 grant is too high for a $30,000 project.

He said the public should not be paying a third of the costs. He said the $10,000 figure is appropriate when considering a new house of $100,000 or more because it is only a fraction of the total investment.

Haynes vowed to return the $10,000 if Central Avenue house ever is sold.

The council also approved John Barnard’s grant request for up to $10,000 on a house renovation expected to cost $8,900. Erickson and Jeanneret again dissented.

When Councilman Shawn Clark voted against the renovation grant for Brett and Lauren Vinson, it created a three to three tie. Mayor Kudrna broke the tie voting against the grant.

The Arbor Manor Steakhouse’s request for $10,000 to renovate apartments on the story above the restaurant also failed. Councilman Tom Clark joined Erickson and Jeanneret against, and Mayor Kudrna broke the tie.

The one grant request that was for building a new house in the Glenrock Addition also drew a tie vote. Tom Clark, Rick Janssen and Katy Billings voted against. Mayor Kudrna voted in favor.

Kudrna said the city wants new home construction, but said construction costs are too high for a builder to get his asking price.

He said there is less need for public funds to help contractors who intend to spruce up an older home for re-sale.

Billings asked Kudrna about Keep Auburn Beautiful’s internal workings.

Billings concluded that the committee had no chairperson and undefined parameters for making its recommendations.

Keep Auburn Beautiful had recommended approval of the new Glenrock house by Richard and LeeAnn Warner, but recommended against the Arbor Manor Steakhouse, Haynes, Vinson and Barnard requests.

Following the votes Monday,   Erickson questioned whether the grant program was still for new living space.

Erickson: “Erickson: “We don’t worry about parameters, I guess.”

Shawn Clark said he voted against the Vinson grant because he wanted to keep one $10,000 grant available in case someone comes forward that does want to build a new house.

City Attorney Angelo Ligouri said it is costing the city between $6,000 and $20,000 to demolish old houses that do not sell and Mayor Kudrna said Keep Auburn Beautiful has identified as many as 41 houses that need investment or they will also need to be torn down.

Five people were in attendance who appeared to be in support of using the grants for renovations.

Mayor Kudrna said the public funds should not be used to reward a property owner that does not keep the property fit. He said the grant is for “new living space” only, but did not offer an explanation for the council’s voting after Monday’s meeting.

Erickson said a program for renovation and rehabilitation should be considered in the next budget cycle.