A project that would bring more than 40 affordable housing units to La Pine took a step forward ahead of a crucial deadline.

On Wednesday, the Deschutes County Commission approved a deed that would convey a 2.7-acre parcel from county ownership over to Housing Works, Deschutes County’s housing authority, as a donation.

The parcel will house a development, slated to break ground later this winter, that would provide low-income residents of La Pine with 42 townhomes and apartments near Little Deschutes Lodge. During the meeting, however, Tom Kemper, executive director of Housing Works, said the organization is rushing to get financing for the project in place before a federal tax-reform package goes into effect.

“It’s really critical that we get this thing funded and closed by the end of this year,” Kemper said. “So we’re racing to do that.”

The tax-reform package that passed the U.S. House of Representatives earlier this year would eliminate the tax-exempt bonds that organizations like Housing Works use to finance affordable housing projects, according to Kemper.

“There’s a provision that basically would kill this transaction,” he said.

With congressional Republicans looking to implement the package as soon as Jan. 1, Kemper said it’s important that the organization issues and funds bonds by the end of the year.

“We’re hell-bent on doing that,” he said.

Deschutes County officials began discussing a land transfer in 2016 and agreed on a parcel later that year, according to James Lewis, property manager for the county. However, Kemper said the project, one of several affordable housing projects underway in the county, was delayed after President Donald Trump was elected because of his campaign promise to reform the country’s tax structure.

“Literally, the tax credit world stopped for four months,” Kemper said.

Kemper said Housing Works will go before the Private Activity Bond Committee, within the Oregon State Treasury, for an allocation that would finance the rest of the project. While Kemper emphasized that he was “99 percent” sure the allocation would be granted, county commissioners Tony DeBone and Phil Henderson were nervous the funding could fall through.

“If it doesn’t happen, it’s kind of an unknown after the first of the year how tax credits fall out,” DeBone said.

If Housing Works can’t secure the funding, Kemper said the housing authority would give the land back to the county.

Assuming the project moves forward, Kemper said it will break ground in January, and would be complete by the end of 2018. The units, which Kemper described as being similar to the 53-unit development going up in Bend on NE Daggett Lane, will be available to people making 60 percent of the region’s median income.

“We’re gonna get it done, commission,” he said. “We will get it done.”

— Reporter: 541-617-7818, shamway@bendbulletin.com