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Sunday, March 3, 2024
March 3, 2024

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Affordable housing projects planned, underway

Apartments would serve downtown, central Vancouver

By , Columbian Social Services, Demographics, Faith
3 Photos
Juan Garcia, right, works Tuesday on framing a room at the Isabella Court apartment complex construction site in central Vancouver. A 180-unit apartment building is planned nearby at 5500 N.E. Fourth Plain Blvd.
Juan Garcia, right, works Tuesday on framing a room at the Isabella Court apartment complex construction site in central Vancouver. A 180-unit apartment building is planned nearby at 5500 N.E. Fourth Plain Blvd. (Photos by Natalie Behring/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

A Portland-based planning and development firm is looking to build a 180-unit apartment complex in central Vancouver, which would add to a handful of affordable housing projects in the works locally. The preliminary application submitted by Otak Inc. on Thursday details plans to build on a 5.35-acre site at 5500 N.E. Fourth Plain Blvd. The site is on the north side of Fourth Plain, just east of Northeast Stapleton Road.

The complex would feature multiple three-story apartment buildings. It’s referred to as the KVAN site because there is a KVAN radio tower on the property. Otak’s architectural office declined to comment on the project, which is in the early planning stages.

The area is zoned community commercial and general commercial, neither of which allow for residential units on the ground floor, said Jon Wagner, senior planner with the city of Vancouver. So, it would have to go through a zoning change and comprehensive plan amendment to make the project viable, he said. The area of Fourth Plain has lots of commercial vacancies, a study by Portland State University students found, and it’s home to many cost-burdened renters and people in poverty.

Wagner said the planning office is getting many applications for multifamily housing projects, both affordable or market rate. The KVAN site falls within a targeted section of Fourth Plain where housing developers can qualify for tax exemptions — if at least 20 percent of the units are affordable to households earning less than 115 percent of the area median income. For 2016, that amounts to $59,110 annually for a single person, or $84,295 for a family of four, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Through the tax-exemption program, rent cannot exceed 30 percent of a tenant’s income.

Isabella Court

While the KVAN site project isn’t a sure thing, if it goes forward, the 180 proposed units would make it the largest affordable housing project underway nearby.

Just a few blocks away from that site, construction is ongoing at Isabella Court, a 49-unit complex for low-income seniors. On Tuesday, workers were framing the building, which is slated to be done in December.

Portland-based nonprofit Reach Community Development inherited the Isabella Court project after merging with Affordable Community Environments in 2013. Reach owns and manages affordable housing around the metro area, including 34 apartment buildings, but Isabella Court is its first construction project in Vancouver.

Isabella Court will take up about 1.7 acres on the north side of the 3.41-acre property, leaving room to build a similar project on the rest of the land.

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Across Fourth Plain from Isabella Court is the future site of the 30-unit Merriweather Place — that is, if the Housing Finance Commission gives the final go-ahead. Kris Hanson, executive director of Columbia Non-Profit Housing, is confident the project serving homeless people with mental health challenges will move forward.

Second Step Housing is also working on a 30-unit apartment complex farther east on Fourth Plain called The Meadows. Debby Dover, executive director of Second Step, will go before the Washington State Housing Finance Review Commission, which doles out tax credits, to get the final financial OK.

“As soon as we hear that, we’re going to start working with the architects,” Dover said. “We do have the Housing Trust Fund money.”

In December, The Meadows project received $2,049,628 from the State of Washington Housing Trust Fund.

Twenty-three of the units will be reserved for formerly homeless people and the remaining seven will be for veterans or youth. Second Step plans to make some of the units accessible for people with disabilities.

West Vancouver

Vancouver’s newest affordable housing complex is in downtown; 15 West has opened and people are starting to move in, said manager Corina Ferris. Although the complex had a wait list of more than 300 people, some didn’t qualify and others had already secured places to rent. So, 15 West is still accepting applications for a few remaining units, include a one-bedroom ground-floor unit that includes a small storefront. It’s known as a live/work unit.

“I imagine we’ll have them all leased up in the next few weeks at the most,” Ferris said.

Neighboring 13 West is under construction and slated to open around this time next year, adding another 92 units of affordable housing.

The Vancouver Housing Authority has plans to do something with a vacant block at 16th and D streets. Last month, the agency’s board of directors approved a resolution allowing the nonprofit’s executive director, Roy Johnson, to solicit proposals from developers.

Columbian Social Services, Demographics, Faith