Officials said Friday they are investigating a King County affordable housing program following KING 5’s report about a politically-connected Olympia couple who obtained a second home in Bellevue through the program.
“…to see ARCH (A Regional Coalition for Housing) being misused and manipulated in this manner is extremely disappointing,” Bellevue City Councilmember Jared Nieuwenhuis wrote in a Facebook post after seeing the story.
“There are teachers, police officers, nurses, firefighters, etc (sic) that can’t afford to live in this city and would love to take advantage of this type of program,” he wrote.
The KING 5 Investigators reported that John Aultman, senior education policy advisor to Governor Jay Inslee, and his wife, Nona Snell Aultman, who is chief deputy clerk of the Washington House of Representatives, own a unit at the McKee Condominiums.
The Aultman’s purchased the unit, tagged for buyers of low or moderate income, in 2009 through ARCH, even though program officials knew they already owned a home in Olympia.
ARCH is investigating whether the Aultman’s have actually been living at the McKee. A contract they signed requires them to live in the unit they purchased.
ARCH is a taxpayer-funded program owned and operated by 15 east King County cities.
“We are very concerned about the situation highlighted in KING 5’s story and are taking active measures to follow up on the information brought to light at the McKee property,” said a statement issued Friday afternoon by Issaquah City Administrator Emily Moon.
Moon heads the board that oversees ARCH.
“We intend to undertake an extensive review of ARCH policies and procedures to determine if changes are necessary,” the ARCH statement said.
ARCH statement in full:
ARCH is a coalition of King County and cities in East King County that work together to preserve and increase the availability of affordable housing. Since 1993, our coalition has been committed to advancing ARCH’s mission by continuing to increase the availability of affordable housing, and providing appropriate oversight to ensure that affordable homes are used for their intended purpose.
We are very concerned about the situation highlighted in KING 5’s story and are taking active measures to follow up on the information brought to light at the McKee property. We firmly believe that ARCH must ensure strong enforcement against homeowners who violate program rules.
It is important to clarify that the affordable units at the McKee were created through local land use requirements, and not through investment of taxpayer funds as reported by KING 5. KING 5 alerted ARCH to issues at three units in the property. One of the units in question was already the subject of ARCH monitoring efforts prior to this investigation, and a sale of that home to a new qualified buyer has been completed. ARCH staff are also actively working to address concerns at another unit identified by KING 5 so that appropriate enforcement actions are taken and the unit can be made available to qualified buyers. At the third unit identified by KING 5, ARCH determined that the property owner received an approval to temporarily rent her home, consistent with program policies.
ARCH member jurisdictions believe in the critical importance of providing safe, decent and affordable housing options for all people in our communities. In addition to responding to any violations at the McKee property, we intend to undertake an extensive review of ARCH policies and procedures to determine if changes are necessary. ARCH takes seriously its responsibility to provide oversight of affordable homes created through local land use and funding programs.