State Rep. Norma Smith, R-Clinton, came to Channel Cove, the Home Trust of Skagit La Conner neigbhorhood, June 27 with a load of questions. She was answered by the Trust’s Executive Director, Jodi Monroe Also around the picnic table in the complex’s court yard participating were Trust board members Kent Haberly and Becki Bell and residents Bob Abrams, Gerald Johnson and Gary Hackley, all veterans. They were joined by La Conner Mayor Ramon Hayes and Scott Thomas, town administrator. Smith told the group that the state legislature provided $180 million “across a continuum of care,” working as a team, between both political parties and both legislative bodies, last session. The legislature devoted funds from the capital and operating budgets for housing and mental health programs to address homelessness. Smith said funding was designed to give organizations “flexibility to respond to the needs of your own community.” Monroe, in turn, discussed the “layering” of funding her Trust compiles to complete a home purchase: the personal down payment, the bank loan and federal community block grant money passed through Skagit County. The City of Mount Vernon’s participation has been with dollars and donations of land, Haberly pointed out. Skagit Home Trust built the Summerlynd neighborhood in Mount Vernon along with houses scattered there and in Sedro-Woolley. “You’re going to get a decent start up house, not a Taj Mahal,” Monroe told Smith. Channel Cove has nine home owners and 18 rental units. Five more homes will be built in the northwest corner of the property, as two side-by-side townhouses and one single structure. All are planned to be three bedrooms. Construction is scheduled for 2019, once funding is secured. The Trust has 46 homes in its portfolio. The three veterans are renters. Abrams, for 11 years. He told Smith his rent has gone from 30 percent of his income to over 50 percent, a formula change that was difficult for him to adjust to and meet. “I don’t understand the area median income,” he said. “Where does that number come from?” Hayes responded that the AMI was the “crux of the issue. Why do they change it?” he asked. The federal government determines that figure. Monroe said 50 percent of the AMI was the eligibility ceiling. For his part, Abrams told the group “If I can’t paint or draw or play golf, you might as well bury me. I have a place in Pleasant Ridge [Cemetery], B-13.” Monroe explained to Smith the Trust pays water and sewage bills to reduce pressure on the residents. Haberly noted that another key cost to the Trust was operating and maintenance tasks. That could be cutting the grass, painting or replacing hot water heaters. Smith said she understood, that “long term, it is not forgiving. Operating and maintenance costs are problematic” for state funding. Smith encouraged the Trust and the Town to continue to work together. “Here’s what we look for in the capital budget,” she said, “and that’s community buy-in that’s existing. We want to come alongside a community that said, ‘this is our goal and this is our mission.’” Having received a thorough overview of the Trust’s work, Abrams, a retired Disney artist, invited the state representative for a tour of his two-bedroom apartment, a working art studio, where wall space in every room – and space on and against chairs – was covered with his paintings, new, recently and long-time finished.