Housing group gets $705,500 grant

Project will create 14 units for physically disabled residents

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OLYMPIA — A Vancouver nonprofit housing organization is receiving $705,500 from the state to construct a new affordable housing project, bringing jobs to Clark County.

The new complex, Cherry Park Apartments, will provide 14 units for physically disabled residents. It will be built near Northeast 62nd Avenue and Fourth Plain Boulevard. The project was made possible through Columbia Non-Profit Housing, an organization that provides affordable housing in Clark and Cowlitz counties.

Julie Ellithorpe, the development consultant for the project, said there is an incredible need for this type of housing in the Vancouver area. Of the 4,425 households on the waiting list for low-income housing at the Vancouver Housing Authority, 32 percent claim to be disabled or in need of special accommodations, according to Steve Towell, community relations for the organization.

“This is a drop in the bucket, there is such a huge need. It almost seems insignificant because the need is so great, but we’ve got to just keep doing what we can do,” Ellithorpe said.

The organization was one of 155 applicants that applied for funding from the state’s Department of Commerce. Only 47 projects received money from the Housing Trust Fund, which provides funding to help communities meet low-income housing needs.

The funding was a saving grace for the project, which hit complications recently when the organization discovered it had to remove a large portion of claylike soil to make the site more stable.

“Without that state funding award, we wouldn’t be able to start before the wet weather starts, so that was a huge benefit,” Ellithorpe said. “It’s going to save thousands of dollars.”

According to Kris Hanson, executive director for the project, the cost estimate is currently $2.8 million to build the 14-unit complex, which is scheduled to start construction in January.

In addition to providing housing, the project will also create local jobs, including approximately 16 long-term positions, Ellithorpe estimated, to provide services for residents.

The project will also create as many as 50 construction jobs, Towell said, making up for half the construction jobs the county lost last month. The construction industry has been suffering in Clark County, losing 100 construction jobs last month, totaling a loss of 600 since September 2010, according to a report by the state’s Employment Security Department.

“This is a really important economic stimulus, because it meets the housing needs of very vulnerable populations and at the same time creates jobs in the construction industry which has been the hardest-hit industry,” said Janet Masella, associate managing director of the Housing Trust Fund. “It’s a dual-purpose investment that you really can’t lose with.”

The Washington State Department of Commerce awarded more than $48 million from the Housing Trust Fund, allowing approximately 1,647 housing units to be built or renovated. The commerce department also estimated the projects would support as many as 2,000 jobs statewide.

“The affordable housing and jobs provided by these projects are invaluable to Washington’s communities as need has increased during this recession,” Gov. Chris Gregoire said in a statement Tuesday. “Struggling families and individuals will have more safe housing options, and communities will benefit from the jobs created.”