Vancouver Housing Authority’s Board of Commissioners on Tuesday approved the agency’s 2021 budget, which includes $60.2 million in operating expenses.
Several developments are in the works — both new builds and renovations of the housing authority’s aging properties across Clark County.
Construction is expected to begin in early 2021 on The Meridian, a 46-unit project from Housing Initiative LLC that’s funded in part by tax credits. The second quarter of 2021 could see the start of Fourth Plain Commons, a 106-unit multifamily collaboration with the city of Vancouver that’s said to include a commercial kitchen, offices, classrooms, a community event space and an outdoor space for a satellite Vancouver Farmers Market. Both projects are in central Vancouver. Renovations are expected to occur at Plum Meadows in Fruit Valley and Central Park Place on the VA campus.
During Tuesday’s budget workshop, Vice Chair Lloyd Halverson said it’s important for the housing authority to reinvest in existing properties. The 2021 budget calls for about $7.2 million in capital expenditures, maintenance meant to extend the life of older properties.
Commissioner Roy Heikkala noted the budget reflects an increase in employees (with the total cost of salaries and benefits at $16.3 million, a 9.4 percent increase from 2020).
“We’ve got a lot on our plate, so it makes sense,” he said. “We’re really taking on a monumental amount of construction.”
Council for the Homeless, whose employees are under the housing authority’s umbrella, is also experiencing growth in staff.
Operating revenues are expected to be $72.2 million with about half coming from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The biggest chunk of the housing authority’s budget is assistance payments where low-income tenants receive Section 8 vouchers that buy down the cost of market-rate rents. Next year, approximately 3,244 households will receive assistance through Section 8 — 181 more than in 2020. This is due to a $3.5 million increase in operating revenues.
Still, those funds can be uncertain not knowing how federal appropriations will shake out.
The housing authority also predicts its monthly payments to landlords will be higher, going up from $697 to $746 per household. This covers the difference between what a voucher holder pays and the total cost of rent. In 2018, tenants began putting more of their income (35 percent) toward rent to help stretch the Section 8 budget. For 2021, housing assistance payments represent a nearly $29.7 million expense.
Among other revenue sources, the housing authority expects to earn approximately $6 million in developer fees next year, which will be put into reserves and used to fund the cost of housing authority developments.
One line item removed from the housing authority’s 2021 budget is its $100,000 contribution to the Vancouver Navigation Center, which closed in March. Executive Director Roy Johnson said he couldn’t speak on behalf of the city but does not know of specific plans for the homeless day center to reopen. If the city requests the housing authority’s participation, the board will discuss resuming payments.