Pasco City Council received a stiff rebuke for voting down the land sale that could have become a 52-unit apartment complex serving those struggling with chronic homelessness.

A letter sent to the City of Pasco by Catholic Charities’ attorney says:

The City Council’s decision was both surprising and disappointing. Firstly, elected and appointed City officials have been publicly supportive of this project. It is disappointing to see the City so suddenly reverse course. This was especially disappointing in light of the City Counucil meeting being filled with unsubstantiated and spurious allegations about Catholic Charities and the people who we serve. Those allegations have no basis in fact, were tinged with cruelty, and perpetuated antiquated notions about people with disabilities.

Catholic Charities goes on to chide the contrast of two major city decisions in that evening’s meeting:

The most significant surprise, however, was that the City’s decision was made on the same night that the Council voted to move forward with a... secured Section 108 loan. Those funds are granted [by HUD]...with the condition and expectation that the City affirmatively further fair housing. HUD’s requirements specifically forbid the exact kind of disability discrimination that the City Council’s decision embodies.

The letter also makes it clear that Pasco Haven “is specifically designed and intended for people with disabilities... and the City’s decision is a direct and inexcusable act of discrimination against that incredibly vulnerable population.”

The letter concludes by demanding Pasco reconsider its position.

Jonathan Mallahan, Catholic Charities Vice President of Housing, told a Tuesday gathering of Pasco Haven supporters that Catholic Charities believes they would be successful in a lawsuit if they elected to pursue one.

However, after sending the letter, he said that Catholic Charities was informed they were not awarded the $2 million grant they anticipated as a key piece of funding for the project. Catholic Charities said the award instead went to projects on Native lands which had demonstrated higher levels of need.

Mallahan said losing out on the grant creates a delay in the project that would have happened with or without the Council’s vote, so they are in the process of regrouping regardless.

But Pasco may gain some additional motivation in working with Catholic Charities to find a home for the project: Washington State may have something to say about Pasco Council’s decision as well.

Carol Moser, Executive Director of Greater Columbia Accountable Community of Health, said she passed Catholic Charities’ letter on to Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson.

After reviewing it, Ferguson’s office told her they had forwarded the letter to the state’s Civil Rights division, zeroing in on the fact that communities that accept CDBG funds make an affirmative commitment to create fair housing.

You can view a complete copy of the letter here.