Work is half completed on The Pacific, an 18-unit apartment building in central Vancouver for people exiting homelessness and who have behavioral health issues.
Expected to open this winter, it will be the first completed project from Housing Initiative, a subsidiary of Council for the Homeless. The Pacific is a “labor of love” that began when the nonprofit took a leap of faith and created Housing Initiative, Kate Budd, the council’s executive director, said during an event Friday at The Pacific. The Community Foundation for Southwest Washington provided a pre-development loan to get the project started.
Andy Silver, CEO of Housing Initiative, said there was certainly risk involved in launching Housing Initiative, but there was also a risk in doing nothing. We need more housing for people coming out of homelessness, he said.
The Pacific will cost $2.75 million and didn’t rely on traditional funding sources, such as low-income housing tax credits or HOME, a federally-funded block grant program. In his first foray into housing development Silver learned “it takes a tremendous amount of coordination and effort” to see through a housing project from start to finish, he said during an interview with The Columbian.
Decisions made along the way can impact who the project ends up serving. For instance, Isabella Court II, a project about a mile away that recently opened, was initially intended for low-income seniors but ended up serving extremely low-income families due to the way funding came together. Rising construction costs add another layer of complication. Silver said Housing Initiative was able to ensure The Pacific will house the people it initially set out to help. Funding came from Clark County, Vancouver’s Affordable Housing Fund and PeaceHealth.
He acknowledged that Housing Initiative’s next two projects, The Elwood and The Meridian, will use more traditional funding sources, including tax credits. But, he hopes to replicate the financing model used for The Pacific, which hinges on local institutions and local government investing in housing rather than federal entities.
The Pacific is designed to be trauma-informed, which means that the trauma homeless people have experienced is kept in mind regarding how it’s built and what services it offers. A garden-style apartment building, each front door will open to the outside so tenants can choose how much or how little they want to interact with neighbors. The color palette will be calming, Silver said. On the service side, providers will use a strength-based approach where tenants identify what their goals are and what they want to accomplish.
Some of the units will be master leased by homeless service provider Share for its clients. Others tenants will come from Community Services Northwest, a Sea Mar Community Health Centers program. Rent is based on a percentage of a tenant’s income, so those with low or no incomes can afford to live there.
Every unit is 400 square feet and includes one bedroom and one bathroom, along with a scaled-down kitchen (a refrigerator, stove and sink but no dishwasher). There is a community room where tenants access laundry, mail and services as well as an outdoor courtyard with raised garden beds.
Adrienne Strehlow, Council for the Homeless board president, appreciates the communal space and is impressed at how it didn’t take long to get The Pacific off the ground.
“It’s so needed because our community is really struggling with affordable housing,” she said.
Located at 3209 N.E. 78th Ave. in the Ogden neighborhood, The Pacific is surrounded by similar projects that take advantage of the proximity to The Vine, C-Tran’s bus rapid transit line. Next door is The Meadows, a 30-unit complex, and Northeast Fourth Plain Boulevard is sprinkled with other apartment buildings aimed at housing people with low to moderate incomes.
Sea Mar Community Health Centers is accepting applications for its six-story, mixed-use building expected to open this fall. The 70-unit apartment building at the corner of Northeast 78th Avenue and Fourth Plain Boulevard will have a dental and behavioral health clinic on the ground floor serving residents and the surrounding community.
Pre-applications for Sea Mar Vancouver Family Housing are online at www.seamar.org/vancouverhousing and can be submitted via email to firstname.lastname@example.org or dropped off at any Sea Mar clinic. Those with questions can contact Sea Mar Housing Manager Veronica Miro-Quesada at 206-788-3293 or email@example.com.